The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Roland de la Platière, Jean Marie and Marie
ROLAND DE LA PLATIÈRE, Jean Marie and Marie or Manon Jeanne, French revolutionists, whose histories are so interwoven that they can be best treated in a single article. M. Roland (born near Villefranche, Feb. 18, 1734, died by his own hand near Rouen in November, 1793) was destined for the church, at which he revolted, and at the age of 19, without resources, travelled on foot over the greater part of France. At Rouen he obtained employment with a relative, and finally received the appointment of inspector of manufactures at Amiens. He devoted his leisure to scientific studies, and was the author of several works on manufactures and rural economy in the series of Arts et métiers published by the academy of sciences (1779-'83). In l776-'8 he travelled in Switzerland and Italy, and addressed to his brother, a prior in Paris, letters containing detailed accounts of manufactures and commerce in those countries, which were afterward published (6 vols. 12mo, 1782). On a visit to Paris in 1776, he had formed the acquaintance of Mlle. Manon Jeanne Phlipon (born in Paris, March 17, 1754, executed Nov. 9, 1793). From early childhood she was a diligent reader of such books as fell in her way, among them the “Confessions” of St. Augustine and Plutarch's “Lives.” At 11 years of age she obtained permission to spend a year in a convent preparatory to her first communion, and there formed an intimacy with a Mlle. Sophie Canet, with whom after their separation she kept up a correspondence for eight years (published in 1841 in 2 vols. 8vo). She was married to M. Roland in 1780, and in 1784 they visited England, and studied together the workings of its political system. After their return Roland was transferred in his official capacity to Lyons, and there finished his principal work, the Dictionnaire des manufactures et des arts qui en dépendent, forming part of the Encyclopédie méthodique (3 vols., Paris, 1785). His wife shared in all his labors. They both hailed the revolution with enthusiasm. Roland became a municipal officer of Lyons, and his wife contributed to a new democratic journal. In 1791 they removed to Paris, Roland having been chosen commissioner to the national assembly on behalf of the workmen of Lyons. Mme. Roland's saloon in Paris became the rallying point of the Girondist leaders, to whom her husband attached himself. On March 23, 1792, he became minister of the interior under Dumouriez. It is said that his most important state papers were drawn up by his wife, though she declares that she exercised little influence npon his acts. Louis XVI. having refused his signature to the decrees for the banishment of the priests and for the formation of a camp of 20,000 men, Roland addressed to him a letter written by his wife, warning him that his tenure of the throne depended upon his compliance with the popular will. No answer being returned, Roland read the letter in full council to the king, who by the advice of Dumouriez dismissed him and his two Girondist colleagues. Roland at once read the letter to the assembly, and it was ordered to be printed and distributed to all the 83 departments. The storm thus raised broke forth in the insurrection of June 20, and paved the way for that of Aug. 10, when the Girondists were restored to the ministry. Danton, who was made minister of justice, incited the Jacobins and the populace against Roland, and scandalous reports were spread about his wife. On Dec. 7 Mme. Roland appeared before the convention to answer a charge of treasonable correspondence with the English ministry. The triumphant manner in which she cleared herself at once silenced and enraged her accusers. During the trial of the king, Roland found important documents bearing against him in a secret closet of the palace, and submitted them to the convention; but as he had examined them without witnesses, it was charged that he had abstracted some of them. The Girondist ministers resigned Jan. 22, 1793, and on May 31 Roland was arrested and held a prisoner in his own house. Mme. Roland rose from a sick bed to demand his release at the bar of the convention; but she failed to get a hearing, and on her return found that he had escaped. She was herself arrested on June 2, and during her imprisonment wrote her memoirs under the title of Appel à la postérité, the manuscript of which was preserved by her friend Bosc, who also adopted her daughter and only child, then 12 years old. Her conduct was heroic, and on the way to the scaffold she occupied herself in comforting a despondent old man beside her in the cart. Of her Œuvres complètes (3 vols. 8vo, 1800) the first two volumes contain her Mémoires (new editions by 0. A. Dauban, 4 vols., 1864, and by Prosper Faugère, 2 vols., 1864). Besides her correspondence with the demoiselles Canet, there have been published Lettres autographes de Mme. Roland, adressées à Bancal des Issarts, with an introduction by Sainte-Beuve (8vo, 1835). On Nov. 15, 1793, a week after her execution, the body of M. Roland was found four leagues from Rouen (in which city he had lain concealed for five months), pierced with the blade of a sword cane which lay beside him, and with a paper in his pocket protesting his honesty of purpose in all his actions, and concluding: “When I heard that my wife had been massacred, I would not remain any longer in a world stained with crimes.” The corpse was carried to Paris and subjected to gross indignities.—See Dauban's Étude sur Mme. Roland et son temps (1864).