S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[Marie Anne Charlotte de Corday dArmans, born in Normandy, 1768, was a descendant of Corneille; adopted the principles of the Revolution, and sympathized with the proscribed Girondists; having resolved to sacrifice herself by the death of Marat, she came to Paris, May, 1793, and, pretending to be the bearer of important information from the provinces, penetrated to his chamber, and stabbed him in the bath; executed the following July.]
In a letter to her father after the murder of Marat, she quoted a line of her ancestor Thomas Corneille (Comte dEssex, IV. 3):
Cest le crime qui fait la honte, et non pas léchafaud.
As in her mind there was no crime, so there was no shame. Napoleon once said, It is the cause, and not the death, that makes the martyr.
That Charlotte Cordays thoughts were early given to the condition of France, is indicated by her scornful remark to some inhabitants of Caen, who were playing cards before their door: You play, and the country is dying. It was of such persons that she wrote to Barbaroux: What a miserable people to found a republic! (Quel triste peuple pour fonder une république!)
She bore her trial with the utmost composure. I have killed one man to save a hundred thousand, she declared; a deformed wretch, to save the innocent; a ferocious monster, to procure peace to my country. I was a republican before the Revolution, and I never lacked energy.
Fouquier-Tinville, the public prosecutor, suggested that she must have practised much to give Marat such a blow. The monster! she exclaimed, he takes me for an assassin!
When asked by her judge after the trial, what she had to say: Nothing, but that I have succeeded. In reply to the question if she thought she had slain all the Marats: Since he is dead, perhaps the others will tremble.
It is the toilet of death, but it leads to immortality.
As the executioner was preparing her for the guillotine. She destroys us, said Vergniaud, alluding to her sympathy for Barbaroux and the other Girondists, who were compromised by her act, but she teaches us how to die (Elle nous tue, mais elle nous apprend à mourir).