Roland, Marie-Jeanne Philepon

, wife of one of the republican ministers of France, who signed the order for the execution of the king, was born at Paris in 1754. She was the daughter of an engraver, and acquired some skill in music and painting, and a general taste for the fine arts. In 1780 she married Roland, and in 1787 visited Switzerland and England, and in these countries is said to have acquired that ardent attachment to the principles of liberty, which was in general so little understood by her countrymen. M. Roland having been appointed inspector of the manufactories at Lyons, was deputed to the constituent assembly, to obtain from it succours necessary for the payment of the debt of that town. Madame Roland at this period settled with her husband in the capital, and took delight in making her house the rendezvous of the Brissotine party, and among them acquired such superiority, that her biographers would have us believe that, | for a time, she was the secret power that directed the whole government of France; perhaps one reason why it was so ill directed. Jn Marcji 1792, when the king endea r voured to allay the public discontents, by appointing 3, popular administration, Roland was chosen minister or the interior, and what kind of minister he was may be conjectured from a speech of Danton’s. When Roland resigned, and was urgently pressed by the assembly to resume his functions, Dan ton exclaimed, “if we give an invitation to Roland, we must give one to his wife too. I know all the virtues of the minister, but we want men who see otherwise than by their wives.” Indeed this lady, who had a remarkably good opinion of herself, informs us in her memoirs that she was in fact the minister without the name; and revised, or perhaps dictated, the letter which Roland addressed to the king on going out of office; “if he had written sermons,” said she, “I should have done the same.” On the 7th of December, 1792, having appeared at the bar of the national convention, to repel a denunciation made against her, she spoke with ease and eloquence, and was afterwards admitted to the honours of a sitting. She presented herself there again, when the decree was passed against her husband; but then, her eloquence having lost its charms, she was refused a hearing, and was herself sent to the Abbaye. From this prison she wrote to the assembly, and to the minister of the interior; her section also demanded her liberty, but it was in vain; and on the 24th of June, 1793, she was sent to the convent of St. Pelagic, which had been converted into a prison, where she passed her time in consoling her fellow prisoners, and composing an account of her own life, which has since been published. At length she was called before the revolutionary tribunal, and on Nov. 8, was condemned to death for having conspired against the unity and indivisibility of the republic. Her execution immediately followed. On passing the statue of liberty, in the Place de la Revolution, she bent her head towards it, exclaiming, “O Liberty, how many crimes are perpetrated in thy name.” She left one daughter, whose only provision was her mother’s writings, which are as follows: “Opuscules,” on moral topics, which treat of the soul, melancholy, morality, old age, friendship, love, retirement, &c. “Voyage en Angleterre et en Suisse;” and when in prison she composed what she entitled “Appel a Timpartiale Posterite”,“containing her own private | memoirs, a strange mixture of modern philosophy and the current politics of the revolution, with rhapsodies of romance, and every thing that can shew the dangers of a <* little learning.” Although this work was written when. she was in hourly expectation of death, its principal characteristics are levity and vanity. She was unquestionably a woman of considerable abilities, and might have been, what we are told she was very ambitious of, a second Macauley, without exciting the envy of the amiable part of her sex; but she would be the head of a political party that was to guide the affairs of a distracted nation, and she fell a sacrifice to the confusion of principle in which she had assisted. 1


I’impartiale Posterite. Biog. Moderne. —Dict. Hist.