There is no public square or place in the world, which in broad magnificence surpasses the Place de la Concorde. The stranger can form little idea of it, except by personal inspection. Stand in the center and look which way you will, something grand or beautiful greets the eye. Look toward the south, and see the fine building which contains the senate chamber, the bridge over the Seine, and the Quai de Orsay. To the north, and see the row of buildings named Place de la Concorde, with their grand colonnades and the pretentious Madeleine. To the east, and there the green forest of the Tuileries gardens, with its rich array of flowers and statuary—and the palace—greets you, and farther away the grand towers of Notre Dame. Or look where the sun sets—the Elysian fields are all before you with their music and dancing and shows; their two long promenades, and in the distance Napoleon’s grand triumphal arch.
To look at the Place de la Concorde itself, you should stand upon the bridge across the Seine—from its center look down upon the great open plaza, see the wonderful fountains, gaze up at the obelisk of Luxor in the center, and you will be struck with admiration of the grand scene before you.
But I confess that I was attracted to the Place de la Concorde more by the historical associations connected with it, than by its present magnificence. Leaning upon the parapet of the bridge and looking down upon the Seine, a pleasant July morning was present to my imagination, and a crowd was gathered upon the place to witness an execution. The slight form of a beautiful woman passes up yonder winding steps to the block. Her hair is dark—not so dark, though, as her genius-lighted eyes -and her forehead is white and nobly pure. She kneels, bows down her head to the block, and is forever dead. It was Charlotte Corday, the enthusiast, who assassinated Marat in his bath. I have seen the place where she killed him—have looked at the very threshold where she waited so long before she gained admittance. The house is standing yet, and the room where Marat lay in his bath writing—where he looked up from his manuscript at Charlotte Corday and promised death to some of her dearest friends in a provincial town—where she plunged her dagger to the center of his black heart!
It was on the Place de la Concorde that Louis XVI expiated the crimes of his ancestors upon the scaffold. One still October day the sweet though proud Marie Antoinette came here, also, to die. The agony that she suffered during her trial, and the day that she perished upon the scaffold, no human thought can reckon. The French revolution taught a fearful lesson to kings and queens; that if they would rule safely, it must be through the hearts of their subjects, otherwise the vengeance of an insulted and oppressed people will be sure to overtake them.