Jean Paul Marat: A Historico-Biographical Sketch - Ernest Belfort Bax

Ernest Belfort Bax's 1882 biography of Biographical Sketch of Jean Paul Marat, A leader of the French Revolution.


A short and, as far as possible, accurate sketch of the character and public career of one of the most heroic and, as a natural consequence, one of the most calumniated champions the Proletariat has ever had, seemed to the author of this little book not inopportune at a time when the opportunist press is endeavouring to heap ridicule or calumny on all those who reject opportunist methods, and who aim at the fundamental reorganisation of society. The “People’s Friend,” whose part was played in the first acute crisis in the great struggle between the old and the new order, at the close of the last century, will always remain the most prominent type of the Revolution in its social aspect – a terrible portent to the oppressor, and a grateful memory to the oppressed. Marat did not owe his influence to any wit, for in that quality, generally so essential to the success of a journalist in France, he was unquestionably deficient. His style from a literary point of view, is monotonous and laboured. He owed his power to his intense earnestness and consistency. The biography of such a man can surely never lose its interest, and an apology is unnecessary for offering it to the public in a condensed form and at an almost nominal price.

It may be observed that all the histories of the French Revolution are written in a spirit necessarily hostile to Marat, and that the only literature, up to the present time, treating of his career from a friendly standpoint, consists (so far as the writer’s knowledge extends) in France, of M. Bourgeart’s exhaustive Vie de Marat in two volumes, and of a short annotated selection of his writings published by the late M. Vermorel; and in England of two articles, one in the Fortnightly Review for February, 1874, by Mr. Bowen Graves, and one in the Gentleman’s Magazine for November, 1877, by the author of the present sketch.


Chapter I

Were we called upon to designate the best abused man in modern history, I think we should not be far wrong in assigning this place of honour, or dishonour, as the case may be, to the individual whose name heads this sketch. The following are only a few of the sobriquets which have been liberally showered upon him by almost every writer who has handled the subject of the French Revolution. M. Michelet styles him the “personification of murder;” Sir Walter Scott compares him to a “wolf;” most writers designate him as the “monster;” even Mr. Carlyle, who would treat the memory of the “Sea-green Incorruptible” himself with some degree of consideration, has no name for “this poor man Marat” but that of “dog-leech,” “obscene spectrum,” &c.

The Marat of tradition and of public opinion is, in fact, a mask, on which is depicted, in a rough and ready manner, all that is most hideous in human nature; it is made to carry in propria persona all the errors and shortcomings of the Revolution, magnified into crime by reaction and prejudice, much as the mask of the Greek actors displayed the human emotions, with the grave or gay, character delineated in broad strokes, detail being disregarded. Now I purpose in the ensuing pages to divest the name Marat, if only for awhile, of this grotesque suit of malevolence with which it has been enshrouded by the prejudice of public opinion and tradition, and to lay bare to English readers, as briefly as possible, the real man who bore this name – the Marat of history. I am led to this, firstly, by the desire of helping to rescue the memory of a man whom I believe to have been possessed of a moral earnestness and steadfastness of purpose rarely met with; secondly, to contribute, by this one instance of its worthlessness, to a healthy distrust and contempt for the world’s judgment and public opinion in its existing state.

I may as well say at once, that with the speculative opinions put forth by Marat I frequently differ, and although agreeing in certain of his conclusions, I conceive them to have been arrived at by a false method, which considerably diminishes their value. It is not the thinker so much as the man whom I honour in the present case. Of Marat in his former capacity I shall say a few words presently, after having laid before my readers a brief outline of his life.

Let us first of all glance at the personal appearance of this typical man of the Revolution. One of the most authentic portraits is probably that in the Chevremont collection, where the “people’s friend” is represented seated at his writing table, one hand grasping his pen, the other the Phrygian cap. The bust taken after death is probably less trustworthy than is usually the case with after-death-busts, owing to the violent nature of Marat’s death. The portrait by Boze is affirmed to be at once very trustworthy and characteristic; but the following description from the pen of one who knew him well, both in public and private life, may convey a better idea than any of them:–

“Marat was of short-stature, scarcely five feet high. He was nevertheless of a firm, thick-set figure, without being stout. The shoulders and bust were broad, the lower part of the body thin, the legs bowed, the arms strong, which latter he employed with much vigour and grace in speaking. Upon a rather short neck he carried a head of very pronounced character. His countenance was large and bony, the nose acquiline, the nostrils wide and somewhat depressed; the mouth was curled at one corner by frequent contraction; the lips were thin; the eyes of a greyish yellow colour, spirituel, animated, penetrating, serene, naturally soft, and even gracious, and conveying a look of great assurance. The beard was black, the hair brown, and négligé; he was accustomed to walk with head erect, rapidly backwards and forwards, in regular time (cadencé) His most usual attitude was with his arms firmly crossed upon his chest. In speaking in society he always appeared much agitated, and almost invariably ended the expression of a sentiment by a movement of his foot, which he thrust rapidly forward, stamping with it at the same time on the ground, and then rising on tiptoe, as though to lift his short stature to the height of his opinion. The tone of his voice was thin, sonorous, slightly hoarse, and of a ringing quality. A defect of the tongue rendered it difficult for him to pronounce clearly the letters c and s, to which he was accustomed to give the sound of g (in French). There was no other perceptible peculiarity, excepting a rather heavy mode of utterance; but the beauty of his thought, the fulness of his eloquence, the simplicity of his elocution, and the point of his speeches absolutely effaced this maxillary heaviness.”

After noticing his conduct in the tribune, the writer concludes his description thus:–

“He dressed in a careless manner; indeed, his negligence in this particular announced a complete ignorance of the conventionalities of custom and of taste, and one might almost say gave him an air of uncleanliness.” – Portrait de Marat par Fabre d’Eglantine.

The above may be taken as a perfectly impartial description, inasmuch as the author was far from a vehement partisan of Marat, in fact, was probably the reverse of prejudiced in his favour. Here then is the figure which historians have portrayed as, even in appearance, a semi-human monster, a hideous toad, &c.

Jean Paul Marat was born at Boudry, in the then Prussian principality, now the Swiss Canton of Neufchatel, on the 24th of May, 1743, of Jean Paul Marat, a native of Cagliari, in Sardinia, and of Louise Cabrol, of Geneva. His father was a medical man. Both parents were Calvinists. It is asserted that he had two brothers and two sisters, but of the precise number we have very little evidence. The central point in Marat’s moral character, his burning horror of injustice, and his vivid sympathy with the oppressed, seems to have been inherited, or at all events to have received its early development, from his mother, whose memory he, to the last, held in affectionate esteem. He relates that among his earliest recollections were those of visiting with her the poor of his native place, administering with his own hands the relief needed, and listening to the words of sympathy which fell from her lips. Marat received the advantage of an exceptionally good education, both general and scientific, in his father’s house. He states that he never cared for the ordinary games of children, and being naturally of a thoughtful and studious disposition needed little coercion from his tutors. There is one very characteristic incident connected with this period which I cannot forbear quoting in his own words:

“I was never chastised but once,” he writes, “and this time the sentiment of an unjust humiliation made such an impression on me, that it was found impossible to bring me again under the rod of my instructor. I refused food for, two whole days. At that time I was eleven years old, and the strength of my character may be estimated by this one incident. My parents not being able to bend my resolution, and the paternal authority finding itself compromised, I was locked up in my own room. Unable to resist the indignation which choked me, I opened the casement, and threw myself down into the street. So severely was I cut in the fall, that I bear the mark on my forehead to this day.”

Marat was not quite sixteen when his mother died, and this proved the first great turning-point in his career; from henceforth the ties of home seem to have been broken for him, for with no other member of the family does he appear to have been in the same close intimacy as with her. The elder Jean Paul we may infer to have been of a somewhat cold disposition, or at all events too much absorbed in his studies readily to sympathise with a boy of Jean Paul’s sensibility.

Whether primarily influenced by these considerations, or as is perhaps more probable, by a desire no longer to be a burden on his father, whose circumstances, although sufficient to provide a thorough education for his son, we may presume were far from affluent, we find in the summer of 1759 our hero quitting his home on the banks of the Neufchatel Lake, to seek his fortune in the wide world; a world wherein the approaching convulsion was already gathering its forces; where the mediaeval civilisation was grasping its last real life-breath; where the Catholic and Feudal edifice was crumbling and tottering; where, in religion, in literature, in philosphy, as well as in political and social relations, all things were preparing for a great change – a change to which the French Revolution was merely the prelude, and through which we are even now passing, although as yet, far from its consummation; in short, the world of the Great Frederick, of Voltaire, Rousseau and the Encyclopaedists, and of the then embryonic, Sturm and Drang.

It was not as many might have imagined, the political and social aspect of things that first of all attracted young Marat’s attention in any prominent degree; but the, at the same time, rising scientific spirit of which the Principia of Newton was the Organon.

We may divide Marat’s life into three periods; the first, the period of childhood, closing with his quittal of the parental roof, in 1759. The second, the period of professional and scientific activity, from 1756 to 1789; the third, that to which both the others may be considered but as preparatory stages, the period of political and journalistic activity, from the publication of his Offering to the Country, in 1789 to his death in 1793.

Of the immediate destination of Jean Paul’s wanderings on first leaving his home we have no very certain evidence. We know, however, that he visited in turn most of the countries and capitals of Western Europe. He writes in the last year of his life “From the age of sixteen I have been absolute master of my conduct. I have passed ten years in London, one at Dublin, one at the Hague, Utrecht, and Amsterdam, nineteen in Paris, and have traversed the half of Europe;” a course probably in part necessitated by his professional avocations, of which we have various reports. According to one of these he was filling the chair of French language and literature in the University of Edinburgh in the year 1772. We have satisfactory evidence that he was offered an important professorship in the Académie des Sciences at Madrid about 1782, which it is alleged he was prevented from filling, owing to the machinations of Bailly.

Marat’s literary activity during the second half of this period of his life may be estimated by the following list of works (consisting, in the majority of cases, each of more than one bulky volume), written and published by him between 1770 and 1789:– A Philosophical Essay on Man, or the Laws and Mutual Action of the Body on the Soul, and of the Soul on the Body, in 3 volumes, by J.P. Marat, Doctor of Medicine, London, 1773; The Chains of Slavery, London 1774, 1 volume, 364 pages. Découvertes de M. Marat, Docteur en Medicine et Medecin des Gardes du Corps de Monseigneur le Comte d’Artois, sur le Feu, l’Electricité et la Lumière, &c., Paris, 1779. This work ran through two editions in one year. Recherches Physiques sur le Feu, do., do., Paris, 1782, one volume in 8vo., 202 pages; Plue Approbation et Privilège du Roi; sept planches en noir. This work is said to have appeared in translation at Leipsic, in conjunction with two others of Marat’s, in 1782. Decouvertes, de M. Marat, &., sur la Lumière, qui ont ete faites un très-grand nombre de fois sous les yeüx de MM. les Commissaires de l’Académie des Sciences, London and Paris, 1782, 1 volume in 8vo., 461 pages, &c.; Notions Elémentaires de l’Optique, Paris, 1784, 1 volume, 44 pages; Recherches sur l’Elecricité, 1 volume, in 8vo., 461 pages, Paris, 1782.; Mémoires sur l’Electricité Médicale, couronnes le 6 Août, 1783, par l’Académie Royale des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Rouen, 1 volume in 8vo., 111 pages, Paris, 1784; anon., Optique de Newton, Traduction Nouvelle. faite par M—, sur la dernière edition originale, ornée de 21 planches, et approuvée par l’Académie Royale des Sciences, Paris, 1787, 2 volumes in 8vo., tome 1eme, 192 pages, tome 2eme, 308 pages; Mémoires Académiques, ou Nouvelles Découvertes sur la Lumière, rélatives aux points importants de l’Optique, Paris, 1788, 1 volume, in 8vo., 324 pages, 10 planches. To these must be added An Essay on a Singular Disease of the Eyes, by MM.–M.D., at Nicholls’, St. Paul’s Churchyard, or Williams’, in the Strand (without date); and what may seem to many strangest of all, a novel, founded on a Polish subject, which, however, never saw the light until 1848, when it was published in the Siècle, as Un Roman de Coeur, par Marat, “l’Ami du Peuple”, as was alleged from the original manuscript. The above list may be regarded as including all the important non-political writings of which Marat was the author, and I think my readers will agree it is no insignificant array for a “dog-leech” or “marsh-frog” to produce.

To the Récherches sur l’Electricité, the Académie awarded the following high commendation:–

“True progress in physical science only being possible with the aid of experiment, all memoirs and treatises should be founded on experiments, correctly made and attested, to serve as a basis for the truths which it is their purpose to establish; such is the course the present author has adopted.”

Probably few persons are aware that among the number of Marat’s friends during his residence in London was the celebrated physicist, Franklin, with whom he used frequently to conduct optical experiments. In addition to the academical posts he at various times filled, he gained considerable reputation while in London in the medical profession, especially in curing diseases of the eyes, as we are informed by his widow in her preface to the posthumous edition of his political works.

This may have partly contributed to his appointment, in 1779, as physician to the bodyguard of the Comte d’Artois, a fact which is conclusive evidence of the futile nature of the charge of charlatanry certain historians have seen fit to bring against Marat in his medical capacity. As M. Bougeart observes, the court was not so empty of aspirants to an honourable position such as this as to render it necessary for one of the first noblemen in France to engage a charlatan in his service.

With his retirement from the Comte d’Artois’ employment, in 1787, we may consider the middle, or scientific period of Marat’s, life virtually to close. The first act of the great revolutionary drama was shortly to commence, and doubtless political and social considerations already occupied his thoughts, well nigh to the exclusion of all others.

I should not omit to mention that about this time he was attacked by an incurable internal malady, that nearly caused his death, and which, although the acuteness of the attack subsided, he well knew could only completely terminate with his existence.

Chapter II

Early in the year 1789 Marat published his Offrande à la Patrie, and this may be regarded as the first of that long series of political writings that went so far at once to stimulate and consolidate the course of the Revolution. With this the real life-work of Marat, that which will ever render his name a prominent one in history, may be said to commence.

The Offrande à la Patrie consists of two brochures, the first containing five discourses, the second (published as a supplement) four. It treats of various topics bearing upon the then imminent crisis, urging unity upon the people in the common cause, warning them against corruption, and denouncing the ministers of finance, who, by their malversations, had so powerfully contributed to the ruin of France, an exception being made in favour of Turgot, as the one upright man among them. The pamphlets had a considerable circulation, and gave their author a foot-hold in the political arena.

The next important event we have to record, is Marat’s conduct on the ever memorable 14th of July of the same year, the day of the storming of the Bastille. It is well known that he was present, and took an active part in that event; but as every detail connected with it has been so often recapitulated, it would be superfluous to do more than mention it in this place. We will therefore pass on to the ensuing evening, and see how he acts. A rumour had gained currency towards nightfall to the effect that several battalions of the royal troups were about to enter the city, to fraternise with the populace, and if need be, to fight on their side. The news of this sudden conversion aroused very grave suspicions in the mind of the “people’s friend.” Upon learning that a numerous detachment was already reconnoitering, and having passed through the Quartier St. Honoré, was on its way to the Quartier St. Germain, he, in his character of popular sentinel, went in search, encountering the troops on the Pont Neuf, where a halt was being made to enable their officer to harangue the surrounding crowd, by which they were being enthusiastically cheered. The tone of the officer’s speech, announcing the speedy arrival of the Royal Hussars, Royal German Cavalry, &c., proving anything but calculated to inspire confidence, Marat pressed through the crowd, and seizing the bridle of his horse, begged the commandant of the accompanying civic guard to reassure himself respecting them. This the latter refused to do, calling Marat a dreamer (visionaire), who retorted by calling him an imbecile, and insisting that the cavalry detachment should be at once challenged to dismount and deliver up their arms, as a pledge of fidelity, to be re-delivered as soon as the bona fide nature of the case was made out. The commandant still refusing, Marat turned to the bystanders, and in a loud voice denounced the whole affair as a conspiracy, the intention being to quarter the troops in the city, and under cover of the night to massacre the unsuspecting populace. The horror and consternation which spread amongst the crowd may be well imagined. Ultimately, after being threatened, the commandant did challenge the royal troops in the manner Marat had suggested, and the latter of course declining the proposal, were re-conducted to their own camp sous bon escort. The service rendered on this occasion to the Revolution and humanity can hardly be over estimated. Had the infamous attempt exposed succeeded, a massacre far exceeding those of September three years later must have inevitably resulted.

On the following Sunday morning, on his re-appearance at the Comité des Carmes, of which he was a member, Marat proposed that, under the auspices of the Committee, a journal having for its object a commentary on the current events, should be established, offering himself as editor, at the same time remarking that he felt this to be the way he could best serve the country. His proposition being rejected, and Marat, as he expresses it, feeling his total inaptitude for anything else in the shape of public work, retired; but he shortly afterwards put the project into execution at his own expense, in the form of a journal, entitled Le Moniteur Patriote, though only one number saw the light under his editorship. It was followed in a few days by a pamphlet entitled La Constitution, ou Projet de Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, suivi d’un plan de Constitution juste, sage et libre par l’Auteur de l’Offrande à la Patrie. Paris, chez Buisson, 1789, in 8vo., 67 pages.

This work, together with a subsequent one, the Plan de Legislation Criminelle, constituted the theoretic basis of Marat’s political action. They were both founded on Rousseau’s Social Contract, which has been aptly characterised as the gospel of the period. It assumed society to be based solely on a hypothetical compact between the individual and the community, and it formed the text for all social and political speculation at the time. The hypothesis, although doubtless expressing a truth, was inadequate. Its standpoint was exclusively subjective – it omitted to take into due consideration the course of historic evolution. Man is conditioned in all his relations, and when one set of conditions is viewed to the exclusion of others, fallacy inevitably results.

It is an important question for the student of the philosophy of history, indeed we may say the great central question, in how far human development is determined, like lower forms of development, by inflexible cosmic laws, and where and in how far the individual may be viewed as a modifying cause, in other words, the precise point at which human will enters as an element of causation. Hitherto, all those historians who have left the theological hypothesis out of account, have been divided into two camps, the one maintaining the entire subjection of human affairs to objective laws, and the other their entirely capricious and subjective nature. Most thinkers are now familiar with the truth, that the laws of human nature are based upon the laws of animal nature generally, and these again on the laws of inorganic nature, &c. For those who accept this position (the doctrine of evolution in its simple form), the statement of the problem of the philosophy of history becomes comparatively easy. Recognising each series of phenomena to involve something specially its own over and above that which has preceded it in the scale of existence – and recognising this something in the human series to be definite action directed by conscious intelligence – it must stand thus: to sift that element in history where the consciously directed will enters as a casual agent from those elements directly traceable to other and lower causes. But although the statement of the problem becomes simplified, it must be admitted that its complete solution is little advanced, for this would mean (to take an example) nothing less than determining the extent of Charlemagne’s influence as an individuality on the subsequent state of Europe, or in other words what that state would have been had Charlemagne not lived; or in the case of the French Revolution, the amount and character of the influence exercised by Voltaire, Rousseau, and the other great pre-revolutionary thinkers (considered in the light of individualities, and not as mere products of their time), upon the succeeding events, in other words, how those events would have shaped themselves had these writers not existed. Nevertheless this question of the determining power of individuality, as distinguished from lower elements of causation, although impossible completely to disentangle from that complex whole – human progress – if clearly kept in view as the first object of the science of history, might be sufficiently elucidated to throw a flood of light on the subject for our present and future guidance, both scientific and practical.

On the 8th September, 1789, the Parisians were greeted with the prospectus of a new journal bearing the heading – Le Publiciste Parisien, journal Politique, Libre et Impartial, par une Societé des Patriotes, et redigé par M. Marat, Auteur de l’Offrande à la Patrie, du Moniteur, du Plan de Constitution, &c., &c., with the usual epigram of Marat’s Vitam impendre Vero (spend life in the cause of truth). Sixteen days afterwards its name was changed to that of Ami du Peuple, a name which has ever since been used as an alternative for that of Marat. Within the first month of its appearance, its editor was summoned twice before the Commune, and in consequence of this the words Par une Societé des Patriotes were struck out of the heading, the journal appearing as edited by M. Marat alone, to avert the possibility of others being implicated in the prosecutions he well knew still awaited himself. The character the Ami du Peuple assumed, was proximately determined by the election of the “States General,” and the composition of the Assembly, the average stamp of whose members were royalists of the Malouet and Monier type. One party in the Chamber was for delivering France over to the English; the majority were only waiting for an opportunity to reinstate the absolute monarchy, as it was before the 14th July; while, to crown all, a famine had been concerted, or had every appearance of being so, by the agents of government, to reduce the populace to submission.

The success of the journal was signal and complete, notwithstanding that every possible obstacle was thrown in its way by the authorities. At one time the patrols of Lafayette would seize the copies from the hands of the colporteurs; at another they would be intercepted through the post on their way to the departments. To avert the danger constantly overhanging him of the printers refusing their services, or having their license taken away, before many months were over Marat was driven to set up a press in his own room, and to commence printing on his own account, expending on this enterprise his whole fortune. It may be well to consider in a few words the character of this famous journal – the Ami du Peuple. As has been often enough remarked to us at this distance of time, the numbers seem but a dreary succession of denunciations and personal attacks. It must, however, be borne in mind that the journal was intended to fulfil a special object, a practical object of the hour; not merely to direct the course of public opinion on matters of general policy, but to constitute itself the organ of the oppressed of all classes, an organ where every wrong could be recorded, as far as space allowed, in the language of the victim, and so to become a terror to official “evil doers.” This being the only medium through which the oppressed could make their wrongs public, it is obvious, complaints, and their consequent denunciations, filled much of its space. It must further be borne in mind that the France of the period, in its official aspect, was, from the King on the throne downwards to the meanest police agent, one rotten mass of unblushing corruption and villainy – a state of things only to be paralleled in our own day by Turkey or Russia.

The following is an instance, on a small scale, of what was daily occurring in one way or another throughout the whole governmental system: – A commissary of police, having seduced the wife of a maker of harpsichords, had abused his authority to have the latter dragged to Bicètre. After vividly depicting the man’s utter ruin, Marat concludes as follows:

“The Sieur Heintzler lodges in the Rue St. Jacques de Latran, &c. As his barbarous persecutor, after the horrors he has already persecuted, may be justly suspected of anything, I demand that he be at once arrested by the police, to prevent his again being able to approach his victim, whom I place under the protection of the revolutionary committee of his section.”

The far-reaching nature of Marat’s sympathy may be judged of from his language on the occasion of the ill-treatment of some sailors by their officers on the coast of Newfoundland, when he writes:– “At the thought of such ferocity the heart is wrung with sorrow and shocked with indignation. One trembles at the lot of these unfortunate victims of cupidity and cruelty, one burns with fury against their horrible oppressors.” There was no tale of suffering that did not find an echo in the heart of Jean Paul Marat, and a ready place in his journal. To multiply instances here would be superfluous when the journal teems with them, scarcely a number appearing without some notice of the kind. Morning, noon, and night was the People’s Friend assailed, both personally and in writing, by the unfortunate imploring his assistance.

I cite one of these only, as showing into what unexpected quarters the general confidence in Marat had penetrated. In number 88 of the Ami, January 5th, 1789) we find it thus recorded: -

“Last Friday afternoon, about three o’clock, the Sister Catherine, nun at the Abbaye de Pantenont, presented herself before me, accompanied by a lady who appeared to be her mother ... The visit of a tall, young, and beautiful woman in such a costume could not but astonish me. I asked to know the purport of her coming. She held in her hand a number of my journal, and informed me that she had come from the Faubourg St. Antoine to beg me to aid her with my advice. Her open and unaffected manner, the tone of sorrow audible in her voice, and her ingenousness, which announced a simple and honest soul, inspired me with interest on her behalf. I enquired the cause of her misfortunes. She informed me that the previous morning she had escaped from the tower, where an attendant had concealed himself. The following is our conversation almost word for word, as far as my memory serves me, for I did not take any notes: ‘What was it, my sister, determined you to such a bold step?’ ‘The bad treatment I was continually made to suffer in the convent.’ ‘By whom, may I ask?’ ‘By the Mesdames de Cherie de Creveton, and, above all, by Madame de Betisi, my mistress.’ ‘What was this bad treatment?’ ‘I have been ceaselessly worried, many times beaten, and kept in penitence till my knees were quite lacerated.’ ‘You seem to me an amiable person, what reasons could these ladies have had for treating you in this manner?’ The poor girl did not hesitate, but gave me a long recital, out of which, however, I could make very little. She stated that her cruel treatment resulted from the fact that Madame de Betisi, who had compelled her to enter the convent, was jealous of the confidence she showed to her coadjutrice, Madame de Varien ... Being unable to persuade myself that petty jealousies alone had been the occasion of such inhuman conduct, but readily guessing from the resolute air of Anne Barbier (such was the name of the nun) that she had not been born to servitude, and judging from the fact of her having recourse to the People’s Friend, that she might possibly be a patriote, I asked how she came to know of me, and if she ever had access to the public journals. ‘We have in the convent the Courier of M. Mirabeau ...’ ‘Have you never, my sister, spoken in the presence of these ladies on the subject of public affairs?’ ‘Oh, very often; I have even disputed with them. The day the Bastille was taken they exclaimed, on seeing the citizens run to arms, “There go the dogs, the scoundrels, who would massacre the faithful subjects of the King.” “Why call them dogs,” I said, “they are perhaps as good as you are,” “Silence, insolent one,” was the retort, “Do you know what you are saying?” Each time there has been a disturbance in Paris we have re-commenced our disputes.’ After this simple exposure of facts it is clear that the Sister Catherine, given over to the mercy of these benign aristocrats, has become (by reason of her patriotic sentiments) the object of their petty vengeances, covered with the veil of hypocrisy.”

In its political aspect the Ami was the logical counterpart of what it was in the humbler aspect we have just been contemplating; as in the one it was a protest against official injustice to individuals, so in the other it was a protest against official injustice towards masses and classes. Here also, and for the same reasons, we find ceaseless denunciations. Every number is a protest against the “insolence of office,” against vested interests and class government. Marat was always suspicious, and, as the sequel proved, only with too good reason, of those in power. [1] Suspicion always seems contemptible unless it can be verified, and the fact of Marat’s continual defiance, probably itself largely contributed, as Mr. Bowen Graves has suggested, to intimidate the guilty occupants of high positions, and so to prevent its verification by preventing the committal of the conjectured crimes. The cases, however, of Necker, of Dumouriez, and subsequently of Barrère, proved that Marat possessed a real insight into character and conduct, and was no reckless slanderer. Any dennuciation proved to be false was always apologised for with the same publicity as it was made.

But it must by no means be inferred from the foregoing remarks that the journal occupied simply the place of prosecutor to the Revolution, and expressed no positive or definite views beyond those involved in this capacity. As will be seen hereafter, the editor’s political principles, based as they were upon the social contract of Rousseau, he, with a consistency inferior to that of no other political thinker of the time, sought rigorously to carry but in the sphere of practical politics. Every event received its comment from this point of view with the utmost regularity. The size of the Ami was entirely regulated by the circumstances of the moment, sometimes consisting of a single sheet widely printed, sometimes of two or three sheets closely printed. The colour of the paper varied also between blue, green, yellow, and white. It should be remarked that in the whole series of 642 numbers there is only to be found one coarse expression, used with initial letters, and subsequently retracted – this at a time when coarse abuse was strictly the order of the day. One of the most annoying methods by which the Government party sought to weaken, or divert to its own uses, the popular confidence in Marat, was by circulating spurious Amis, in which all Marat’s views were (of course with as much appearance of seriousness as possible) absurdly travestied, and a copious amount of bloodthirsty advice given. Historians have eagerly caught up these forgeries as evidence of the sanguinary character of the “People’s friend.” A more usual, and if anything still more annoying plan, and one which seems to have been so successful as to lead to the abandonment of the former, was that of publishing advice purporting to come from Marat, either of an utterly laissez faire character, or else designed to promote discord in the popular ranks. On his return from London, in 1791, Marat found no less than four separate journals afloat purporting to come from him, all of this nature. He writes,

“I warn my readers, the friends of liberty, that they may distinguish my paper from the false Amis published under my name, if only by this, that the authors of the latter are sleepers, who always preach peace, tolerance of factious priests, patience under the outrages of public functionaries, submission to laws good or bad, blind obedience of soldiers to their officers, &c.”

What Marat wrote in his journal he defended by word of mouth in the Cordelior’s club, although he always regarded journalism as his vocation more than oratory. Danton owed his power to speaking, Marat to his writing. In addition to his journal, the “ People’s Friend” had two other modes of making his views public. He was accustomed on special occasions when “urgency” was required, to supplement the latter by placards and pamphlets. When any important crisis took place in public affairs, the placards were to be seen in all the most conspicuous places on the walls of Paris. Among the most notable of these placards may be mentioned that on the occasion of the massacre of the troops at Nancy, Affreux Reveil, that headed On nous endort; prenons y-garde, an expression of indignation, of the prosecution of those who had taken part in the famine insurrection, of the 5th and 6th of October by the royalist court of the Chatelet, &c., &c. Among the pamphlets may be mentioned the Appel à la Nation, written from London in 1790; the Plan de Constitution, already spoken of; and, most important of all, the Plan de Legislation Criminelle, a system of legislation rigorously deduced from Rousseau’s Social Contract, and which it is said Marat regarded as his least imperfect work. Also the celebrated Dénonciation faite au Tribunal Publique contre M. Necker, &c., Marat having regarded the Minister of Finance as the principal agent of the famine, and the second Dénonciation contre M. Necker, &c., in which the charges made in the former pamphlet bearing that title, are further substantiated.

Constant attempts were being made, either by ill-judged wags or by persons politically, interested, to palm some absurd story upon the “People’s Friend,” to the intent that he might make himself ridiculous, and bring his journal and, influence into contempt. Once one of these anonymous letters conveyed the intelligence that a large quantity of arms and ammunition was about to be deposited in the fortress of Vincennes, and that to prevent the affair coming to light all the workmen engaged in it were to be poisoned at a supper given them the same evening. The only notice taken of this was a paragraph in the next day’s Ami concluding,

“However clever my correspondent may be, the advice he gives is too improbable not to appear suspicious and even false. I warn honest men not to play with the ‘People’s Friend’ any more, as he is never likely to be their dupe.” No.251.

Chapter III

The first direct consequence of Marat’s writings was the so-called “Bread Insurrection,” or insurrection of women, October 6th, 1789, so vividly described by Mr. Carlyle, when the populace went en masse to Versailles, and which ended in the return of the royal family to Paris, and their temporary reconciliation with the people.

From the first the scarcity of bread was the daily theme of the “People’s Friend,” but it took a whole month effectually to rouse popular energy, to take steps for ameliorating this state of things. Although public discontent was allayed, and the people and the “powers” reconciled for a time, the latter were by no means disposed to extend this reconciliation to their leader. On the 8th of October, 1789, occurred the first seriously attempted prosecution of which Marat was the object. It was really occasioned by his comments on the events of October the 6th, and his severe handling of the popular idol, Neckar, but the pretext was a false accusation, apologised for the next day, made against one of the Secretaries of the Commune. The indictment was launched by the Court of the Chätelet. Its result was to compel Marat to seek refuge in a place of safety at Versailles; but from this he was very nearly being betrayed into the hands of the authorities by the perfidy of his host, when he was offered a real asylum in the house of his friend Leconitre.

After remaining here some days, to allow the storm to pass over, he ventured to return to Paris, choosing an obscure street of Montmartre as the place of his domicile, from whence, on the 5th of November, the publication of the Ami, interrupted during his concealment, was resumed. On the 26th of this month, as we have before mentioned, he established a press of his own in the Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie.

It was not long before he was discovered in his retreat, and one morning early, before he had risen from bed, he was aroused by hearing himself inquired for, and on opening the door, found a party of officials, come to arrest him. On arriving at the Bureau des Récherches, the triad of members necessary to form a tribunal not being complete, Marat took a seat near the fire to await their coming. He says,

“These gentlemen had awakened me rather early, and as I had not breakfasted, I accepted a cup of chocolate, and commenced conversation.

“Ready to interrogate me, they inquired (what they knew as well as I did) why I had left Paris, where I had been, how long I had remained in each place, &c.

“My interrogatory ended; M. de Lafayette arrives. The gentlemen of the committee present me to him.

“‘Who are those of my etat major who have given you offence?’ he asked.

“‘I will let you know in a future number of the Ami,’ I replied.”

From the Comité des Récherches Marat was taken to the Commission of Police. On being reproached for his incessant denunciations, he rejoined,

“Gentlemen, these are the disagreeables we have to put up with in the passage from slavery to liberty. Do you really believe that a Revolution such as this could accomplish itself without some misfortunes, without the shedding of some drops of blood? I entertain no hostile design against you, but had I to choose between my duty to the Commission of Police and my duty to liberty, my choice would be already made.” No.71.

Marat’s outspoken candour had a powerful effect on the commission, which at once set him at liberty, even offering a coach to convey him home. One of the members, in the ardour of his enthusiasm, embraced him, exclaiming, “Go, my friend! go, write and unmask the villains.” The difference between the old and the new régime was beginning, although slowly, to make itself felt. Profiting by his favourable acquittal at the hands of the Commission, the “People’s Friend” went next day to demand of Marie Bailly the restitution of the confiscated presses, allowing a quarter of an hour for delay. They were restored within the given time, and the following day the Ami appeared as usual.

But the “Châtelet” was not to be beaten so easily as the municipality. On the 21st of January, 1790, the mandate of October 8th was renewed, and vigorous were the measures taker to prevent its miscarrying this time. “The hero of two worlds,” Lafayette, was authorised to call in the aid of three battalions of National Guards. At an early hour of the morning of the 22nd, while it was still dark, the troops penetrated, Lafayette at their head, into the apartments of the house where the Ami was printed, seized everything they could lay their hands on, and at 11 o’clock, after leaving a detachment on guard, the main body returned home, consoling themselves at finding no Marat, by carrying lighted candles at the end of their bayonets and shouting, Marat â la lanterne.

The intended victim, in his account of this days proceedings, says:

“I was sleeping in a room in a neighbouring street, when a young man attached to my office came with tears in his eyes to inform me that my house was surrounded by several battalions; my landlord and his wife also entered my chamber with an air of consternation; they could not speak, but could only tremble.

“‘Peace,’ I cried, ‘it is nothing; leave me alone.’ I am never more sang froid than in the midst of imminent danger. Not wishing to go out en déshabille, for fear of exciting attention, I carefully made my toilette; throwing an overcoat over me, and covering my head with a round hat, I put on a smiling air and took my departure; I gained the Gros-Caillon by passing along side of the guard sent to arrest me. On the way I sought to distract my companion, and managed to preserve a good humour till about 5 o’clock in the evening, at which hour I awaited the proof of the sheet containing an account of the famous equipage. No one appearing, I had a presentiment of my impending misfortune, and the rest of the day was passed in sadness. They had got wind of the route I had taken. In the evening the house was invested with spies. I recognised them from behind a jalousie. It was suggested to me to escape by the roof on the approach of night, nevertheless I passed them in open daylight, giving my arm to a young person who accompanied me, and walking leisurely. As soon as it grew dark I repaired to the Grand Basin du Luxembourg. Two friends were waiting there, to conduct me to the house of a lady in the neighbourhood. Finding no one at home, we took a vehicle and went to seek an asylum at the bottom of the Marais.

“Arrived at the Rue de la Perle, my new host, I find, has company. I observe a stranger. After a quarter-of-an-hour’s conversation, I enquire of my host, in a low tone, if he knows this individual? ‘As yourself – all right.’ I continue the conversation some time longer, and after having partaken of supper, retire to rest. In the middle of the night an escouade of cavalry makes halt under my window, but on opening the shutters and looking out, I observe that not one of them has put foot to the ground; so I quietly resume my bed till the next morning.”

The consequence of all this was to demonstrate the necessity of at once leaving Paris and France – and indeed Marat lost no time in putting this plan into execution. In a few days he was in London.

It may be desirable to corroborate the apparently exaggerated statement given by Marat as to the number of troops sent to arrest him by that of a Royalist writer. Monjoie, in his Historie de la Conjuration de Phillipe d’Orleans, says:–

“Lafayette marched against Marat an army of six thousand men, and posted them at the opening of every street; abutting on the house were two pieces of artillery. This was so extraordinary, that had I not been a witness of it myself, I should never have believed it. Conceive indeed this ‘hero of two worlds’ deploying forces so formidable against a man whose only arm was his pen.”

While in London Marat wrote the pamphlet entitled the Appel à la Nation.

It was most likely shortly after his return to Paris (May 18th, 1790), absolutely destitute of means even to establish a press, that the noble and devoted Simonne Evrard resolved to share with him her fortune and her life. Simonne was born at Tournes St. Andres in 1764. She was therefore twenty-six years of age, and Marat forty-six at this time. In spite of the repudiation of relations, in spite of threats of abandonment, she remained his constant companion till death, and the heroic defender of his memory afterwards. It was by means of her small fortune that Marat was enabled again to establish his own printing office, and continue the publication of his Ami independently of printing teams, who might fail him at any moment. Just as with the “People’s Friend” himself, historians, whenever they have mentioned Simonne Evrard, have always made it an occasion of vilifying her, although they can bring no solitary fact in proof of their assertions. The entire fabric of calumny rests upon an incoherent and self-contradictory narrative of Madame Roland, in which she endeavours to defame alike Simonne and Marat. It is a noteworthy circumstance, that historians, in their excessive zeal to vilify the subject of our narrative, have, by their mutual inconsistencies, betrayed themselves. One very “reliable” historian thus sums him up as viciously ascetic – a veritable modern Diogenes. Another very “trustworthy” authority as an incarnation of lasciviousness, keeping voluptuously furnished apartments in which to receive courtezans, &c. According to one writer he is a raving demagogue, “sticking at nothing;” according to another, a timid and cautious self-seeker. These writers have surely spoilt their role by overacting it. Had they been a little more moderate in their statements, they might at least have been reconciled as it is their assertions simply negative one another. All calumniators should bear in mind Talleyrand’s advice: “If you want to damage a man, say what is probable as well as what is true.”

Of the fidelity and unselfish chatacter of Simonne Evrard, the following declaration made by the surviving members of Marat’s family after his death, will, I think, be strong evidence, since they could have had nothing to gain by courting her friendship. It runs as follows – “Penetrated with admiration and esteem for our dear and worthy sister, we declare that it is to her the family of her husband owe the preservation of the last year of his life.” After referring to the perils she had borne with Marat, and her devotion to him, it continues,

“We declare that it is with satisfaction we fulfil the wish of our brother in recognizing the citizeness Evrard for our sister: that we repudiate those members of the family who do not share our feelings of esteem and recognition. Given at Paris, 22nd of August, in the year II. of the French Republic. – MARIE ANNE MARAT (femme OLIVIER), ALBERTINE MARAT, PIERRE MARAT.”

Chapter IV

Less than a month after the re-appearance of the Ami June 10th, 1790, a decree was passed, upon the proposition of the King, fixing the civil list at twenty-five millions. This meant, of course, additional means to crush obnoxious persons, besides additional taxation in a time of scarcity. An indignant war-cry, addressed to all patriots, was immediately raised by Marat at this barefaced attempt at once to exhaust the nation, and trample on the little liberty already won. The municipality finding therein a new pretext for arrest, Marat is once more environed by a network of spies. The cry of “anarchist” raised by the Government is taken up by “moderate” journals of all shades; indeed, the “People’s Friend” is left with only one public defender, he being Camille Desmoulins. The latter, in conjunction with many of Marat’s private friends, urgently exhort him to fly, but in a noble letter, unfortunately too long to quote in full, he replies, asking whether – when one considers the number of men who are annually torn from their families to fight and die for a supercilious royal master, who cares not a jot for them, yet who go cheerfully, and as a matter of duty – it is a great sacrifice for him, a man without family, to risk a little danger at an imminent crisis to help to save a whole nation from despotism, danger being moreover a condition to which he is by this time pretty well accustomed, since, for eighteen months condemned to every sort of privation, he has rushed from one retreat to another, often unable to sleep two consecutive nights in the same bed (Ami, No.170).

The storm, notwithstanding, blew over without the mandate of arrest being put into execution, but it was not long before Paris once more rang with the name of Marat. The Ambassador of the Court of Vienna requested of the King a free passage through France for the Austrian troops, on their way to Belgium. Marat’s ready suspicion, assisted possibly by information received, at once saw in this a stratagem; and, on July 26th, a placard, bearing his signature, was to be seen posted up in all quarters of the city. It was headed, C’en est fait de nous, – “It is all over with us,” and proceeded to denounce this manoeuvre of the enemy as a plot to crush the revolution by force of arms, and reinstate “Royalism” in all its former glory. The placard terminates with these words, often made a notable point-d’apptui by the caluminators of the “People’s Friend”: “Five or six hundred heads fallen would have assured you repose and happiness; a false humanity has restrained your arm and suspended your blows; it will cost the life of millions of your brothers.” [1] Shocking language, truly, for those who are profuse in shudderings and vituperations at the execution of a handful of hostages by men goaded to the last verge of desperation, while they have no word of condemnation for the indiscriminate slaughterers of men, women, and children in the exultation of victory, and no word of sympathy for their victims. It is a privilege of a defender of “order” to murder at his pleasure in defence of his “order,” and the exercise of this privilege is often a proof of decision and capacity; but when the advocate of “subversive doctrines” dares to raise so much as a finger against his persecutors and those of his party, “Hideous monster! incarnate fiend!” is the verdict of “Respectability.” It matters not that judgments of this kind are contrary to justice and morality; it being a successful means of throwing dust before the mental vision of that large section of the public, which does not enter into the facts of the case setting impartial truth at defiance, and, creating a hue and cry in the interest of “order” is likely to continue, like many other things, because it pays; and so justice and humanity must bow their heads for a while to the status quo.

Apart from these considerations, the question arises, Did Marat, in this and certain other declarations of a similar nature, mean anything more than to destroy a sense of fatal security in the minds of the Royalist plotters? I fancy no impartial mind, on reviewing the evidence, will think he did. Apropos of this aspect of the question, I quote a few passages from Mr. Bowen Graves’ masterly article in the Fortnightly Review for February, 1874, the only defence of Marat, as far as I am aware, that has hitherto appeared in English, and which, in point of conclusiveness, leaves nothing to be desired:–

“What can give a more hideous picture of human nature than Marat’s estimate, as we find it in Michelet, of the number of heads demanded by the public weal as exactly two hundred and seventy-three thousand! It would impress us far less with horror if the number had been a million at once. A thousand, a hundred thousand, or a million may be figures of speech; there is no figure of speech suggested by that horribly detailed two hundred and seventy-three thousand. Now, the fact which is really remarkable is, that no such number, or anything like it, occurs in any of Marat’s writings. The detail is imported from without. The credit of its origination belongs to Barbaroux; the finishing touch – the last embellishment, the three – is M. Michelet’s own. Threats of bloodshed are, no doubt, only too frequent, but always in language such as, to an impartial mind, excludes the idea of calculation. One day it is ten thousand heads that must fall, the next it is one hundred thousand, a third it drops to fifty thousand, a fourth to twenty, and so on. A few months before his death, he tells us in his journal what he meant by them: ‘I used them,’ he says, ‘with a view to produce a strong impression on men’s minds, and to destroy all fatal security.’ There is nothing to be found in the pages of the Ami du Peuple approaching in cold bloodthirstiness what is to be met with repeatedly in the Actes des Apôtres, for example, or the Journal de la Cour et de la Ville; or, to take another example: ‘it will cost ten thousand lives to save the country,’ says one man. ‘When compromise was proposed,’ says another, ‘to the effect that the Government should enter Paris, but not the army, I replied that if it should cost a river of blood the army should enter first.’” – Fortnightly Review, February, 1874.

The Commune and Marat are monsters without a parallel, but M. Thiers, the author of the above declaration, is a champion of respectability and moral order. “If I knock you down, mind, it is nothing, but if you hit me back again it is a dastardly outrage.” The sarcasm of Punch to this effect will apply to every struggle between constituted authority and revolution. Respectable officialism cannot commit a crime, the most it can do is to make a mistake. Revolutionism cannot make mistakes, it can only commit crimes.

In the placard C’en est fait, Marat proposes what was afterwards put into effect by the unanimous voice of the popular party, namely, to imprison the royal family in the Tuileries, as some safeguard against the plottings of Royalists. Yet this placard was again sufficient to raise a storm against him, in which he was forsaken by all, even to Desmoulins. To us, who can detect no direct evidence of any secret purpose in the movement of the Austrian troops, the passionate declamation contained in it seems somewhat exaggerated, but we must in all historical judgments bear in mind the material circumstances as well as the moral conditions of a time. France was at this period breathing an atmosphere of “plots,” real and imaginary. The flocks of eminent “aristocrats” from across the Rhine were known to be in active correspondence with their brethren in France. The European courts – notably that of Austria (personally related to the Queen) – were anxiously watching events in the interests of Royalism. Surely it was, to say the least, very natural to suspect any attempt to introduce Austrian troops on to French soil. A much less suspicious circumstance might surely have raised the suspicions of a much less suspicious “patriot” than the “People’s Friend” in those days. Every attempt was made to stop the circulation of the placard, and to seize the person of Marat, who was in consequence compelled more than ever to conceal himself.

A week after appeared another placard, On nous endort prenons-y-garde, “We are sleeping, take care.” This was a denunciation of the conduct of the Châtelet in prosecuting those who had taken part in the famine insurrection of the preceding October. It endeavours to show that the descent upon Versailles was an act of necessity on the part of the populace; and was justified by its results; from that time the previous scarcity of bread having become, to a great extent, ameliorated. On the 25th of August appeared yet another placard, C’est un beau réve gare au veveil, “It is a fine dream, beware of the awakening.” This time it was no public event that called for comment or remonstrance; but a report, ingeniously circulated by the enemies of the revolution, that the provinces were vehemently demanding a return to “order,” that the existing misery of the working classes was entirely caused by the disorders of the time, &c. It proceeds to refute in detail these assertions, and terminates with a passionate appeal to the nation to take counsel of its misfortunes.

It was about this time that an event occurred in the North-east district which filled all France with horror. On the 29th of August, certain regiments forming part of the garrison at Nancy, being reported in a state of mutiny, Commandant Bouillé, cousin of Lafayette, was despatched to restore “order”; this he effected on the 31st, at the cost of a frightful massacre. It should be observed that most of the troops he employed were Germans. Marat’s cry of alarm was again thrown into the form of a placard. Affreux Reveil, “Terrible Awakening”:

“Behold the horrible catastrophe that I so long have predicted! inevitable consequence of your want of foresight and blind security. Nothing equals the criminality of the commandant and officers of Nancy, unless it be the unscrupulousness of the Assembly, in launching these horrible decrees, acts of madness, or rather acts of barbarity, deserving the severest punishment. Crush beneath your feet those who would light the torch of civil war, invite the provinces without delay to name other deputies, install them in the Senate, and drive away with ignominy those who now disgrace their office. Disarm the German satellites, who murder your compatriots, &c.”

Our journalist devotes several numbers of the Ami, some double ones, to proving that the conduct of the authorities, i.e., Lafayette and company, even from their own point of view, was altogether unnecessary and unjustifiable, and further, that the garrison in the first instance had good cause for complaint, and were fully justified in taking up the position they did.

“Stupid despots,” he writes, “will you never learn that it is by honour and justice, those all-powerful divinities, that one should rule free and sentient beings? What could not you have obtained from a peaceable citizen and an intrepid warrior had you known how to elevate his heart! Will you then never honour human nature, and always prefer the pleasure of tyrannising over slaves to the privilege of commanding free men?”

This affair contributed considerably to extend Marat’s influence, while, at the same time, intensifying the hatred of his enemies, and increasing his persecutions.

Amid all these there was one circumstance from which he might have derived some satisfaction, both personal and public. On the 6th of September, just a week after the Nancy massacre, the Assembly abolished the Court of the Châtelet; the Court with which the same Assembly had so often united in striking at the author of the Ami, and (through the Ami) of so many denunciations of its conduct and decrees. But, unfortunately, although the Châtelet was abolished, domiciliary visits and official decrees of arrest were by no means at an end. Early on the 15th, Lafayette having learnt the previous day that a number devoted to an examination of his conduct was in active preparation, a visit was made to the office of the Ami du Peuple; everything was ransacked, seized, or destroyed, even to the mattress from which the manager, Sieur André, had just risen, which was ripped up with bayonets. The “People’s Friend,” in propria persona, was, however, not to be found, he having long since been compelled to abandon the upper earth for subterranean retreats. Where he was it was found impossible, by threats or otherwise, to extort from Sieur André. Another formidable attempt at arrest with the same result was made by Lafayette on the 14th of the following December.

Chapter V

During the year 1791, Marat was occupied with the same struggle as the previous year, the struggle with the chicanery of the Constitutionalists. It is expressed in the words:– “The question is not how to remove your old tyrants, but how to exterminate the new ones, that you may live as free and happy men.” Ami, No.224. Space will not allow me to do more than touch upon the chief events of the year as far as they concern Marat. It opened as gloomily as the preceding closed. In the attempted arrest of the 14th of December previously, from which Marat escaped only owing to his careful concealment, three battalions had been, as on another occasion, marched to the supposed residence of the object of official vengeance. There was now, owing to the failure of this undertaking, a particular battalion charged upon oath with the mission to assassinate the “People’s Friend,” wherever found. But even among those of whom Lafayette believed himself most sure, Marat had some friends. On the 14th he had received intimation from several officers of the intended expedition, seventeen letters in all. “Parisians,” he writes, “with such men one need not despair.”

On the night of the 21st of June occurred the memorable flight of the King to Varennes; Marat had foreseen that this would be attempted, with a view, as he thought, of leaving a free passage for foreign intervention, Ami, No.434. Some days before this event he wrote urgently in favour of déchéance. He had been for some time practically republican, the course of events having more and more weaned him from the limited monarchy opinions expressed at the outset of the Revolution. After the flight to Varennes, republican ideas became general with the popular party, the restoration of the monarchy, which Carlyle compares to an inverted pyramid, finding little favour, except with the Constitutionalists, desirous of retaining their places and revenues. A petition for déchéance was accordingly drawn up, and a meeting convoked and held in the Champ de Mars, on Sunday the 17th of July, just one year and three days after the ceremony of the inauguration of the Constitution. Towards nightfall on this occasion, Lafayette appeared at the head of 10,000 National Guards, accompanied by cannon, &c., with the intention of dispersing the populace; Marie Bailly bearing the red flag, symbol of martial law, but one so small, as the witnesses declared, that he was able to carry it in his pocket. Without waiting for the three legal and prescribed summonses, the guards fired at Lafayette’s command, first into the air, and then upon the multitude. Some hundreds fell killed or wounded, and the rest were dispersed by the cavalry. After this affair there was a general flight of journalists, the only one remaining being the inexorable “People’s Friend,” but he as outspoken and energetic as ever. In his number of the 10th of July we read:

“The blood of old men, women, and children, massacred around the altar of the country, smokes still, it cries for vengeance, and the infamous legislator offers congratulations, and votes public thanks to these cruel tyrants, to these cowardly assassins, &c.”

But Marat had counted without compositors and without distributors. After the bold article of which the above is the commencement, these, one and all, deserted him – the panic was complete.

The next number of the Ami appeared on the 10th of August. In September the election for the new “Constituant” Assembly, which was to succeed the then expiring “Legislative” Assembly, were to be held. Marat intended, on the opening of the new legislature, to discontinue his journal – as he entertained some hopes that deputies more in harmony with the principles of the revolution might be returned. He closes his number of the 8th of September with the following letter:

“Letter of the Author to the Conscript Fathers

My compliments to the august assembly. Thanks to the sublime constitution, gentlemen, which you have given to France, there is no more water to drink, and as there are the galleys to gain, in defending the rights of the nation, the “People’s Friend” has the honour to inform you that he is on the point of renouncing the foolish project of immolating himself for the public safety, and to think in future of nothing further than how he may rebuild his fortune, having been reduced to the greatest straits in pursuit of this insane object,” &c.

He seems at this time to have been alternating between hope and despair in his views of public affairs generally, and especially as to the character and action of the chamber about to be elected. Three days previously to the letter just quoted, he had said “Before quitting the pen, to which I have consecrated three years in the defence of the rights of the nation and of public liberty, my last look will be for the welfare of the people.” The number for September the 21st contains “The last farewell of the ‘People’s Friend’ to his country.” He relates therein his mode of life since adopting the career of journalist. He had resolved with the cessation of his journal again to return to London. The number of the following day is dated from Clermont. It narrates how in the diligence he encountered five “Emigrants.” He learnt from their conversation of the means used to obtain passports, also of their designs of revenge for “Varennes,” when they should return, as they confidently hoped before long. No.559 is dated from Amiens; it treats of the famous decree against the titles of the nobility. “If justice had not interdicted this stroke of authority to the legislator, one would have thought common sense would have made its folly manifest.” He concludes by remarking it were better, instead of suppressing titles, to compel the bearers always to carry them in public, to the intent they might be known, and shunned by all true patriots.

On his journey our traveller had a narrow escape of being arrested. Alighting at the Hotel d’Angleterre, at Amiens, he hears a police agent say, close to his side, “It is he – I recognise him.” No doubt there was an amnesty, but the “People’s Friend” knew he was always a good prize. He feigns not to see anything, walks leisurely, and suddenly disappears behind a hedge. A shepherd passing, he requests to be reconducted on the road to Paris by a circuitous route, as he had abandoned the intention of proceeding to London. The man offered him as a guide a patriot, an old French Guard; so Marat, having donned the habit of a peasant, proceeded with his companion. At Beauvais a cabriolet was obtained, and on the morrow he found himself again in Paris.

On the first of October the new Constituent Assembly was opened, but its character became very soon apparent. It followed in the steps of its predecessor continuing the work, and no-work, of the Legislative Assembly. Marat’s indignation and disgust was such that, after two months’ “wrestling with principalities and powers,” he resolved, for the second time, to leave France, though not before he had cast upon it one more despairing farewell.

“Oh, my country, what fearful lot is in store for thee! Oh, that I have been unable to unveil thine eyes! There is naught further to be done to prevent thy ruin, and thy faithful friend has no further duty than to deplore thy sad destinies, and shed tears of blood over thy prolonged disasters.” – Ami, Dec. 14, 1791.

The next day, December 15th, he left Paris definitely for London; while there planning a work, in two volumes, entitled L’Ecole à Citoyen. The following April (1792) the patriotic societies, at the instigation of the Cordelier’s Club, invited the patriotic journalist to return, promising him their support and assistance in the circulation of his journal. The fact that Pétion had replaced Bailly as Maire, may have contributed in some measure to induce Marat to accept this proposal, or it may be that his burning zeal could not allow him to rest, and that he had already decided to return to the struggle. Whether such was the case or not, we find, on the 12th of April, the criers once more announcing the reappearance of the Ami du Peuple, after four months’ suspension. At the head of the first seven numbers appeared in full the minute of the Cordelier’s Club, in which the “People’s Friend” was invited to resume his labours. Many things had happened during his absence; among them, a law had been passed declaring the King’s brothers and the emigrants generally, in a state of accusation. This denoted a distinct advance in revolutionary policy. Lafayette was now, moreover, beyond the frontier.

On the 26th of April, war was declared against Austria, a step greeted with great applause on all sides – each party hoping to gain by it. Our journalist alone saw its folly, and denounced the measure, not merely as a useless expenditure of blood and money, but as a dangerous manoeuvre to distract the people from national affairs, and to frustrate or delay the accomplishment of the Revolution. The only means of preventing it would have been “to retain as hostage among us Louis XVI, his wife, his son, his daughter, and his sisters,“ and to have held them responsible for the course of events. – Ami, No.634.

Marat’s opinion regarding the war-question was the beginning of that schism between him and the Girondists, which subsequently assumed such gigantic proportions. The “Girondins,” or the “Brissotins,” as they were at this time called, from their leader Brissot, were a species of Republican constitutionalists – Hommes d’Etat, as Marat characteristically dubs them. Their political programme was federalism. They were, without doubt, essentially the most brilliant party in the Assembly, comprising among their number the greatest orators in the country, but withal simply Rhetoricians, and Bourgeois politicians, who saw in the championship of the revolution, and in vague meanderings about liberty, a stepping-stone to office and who had no conception whatever of the vigorous action necessary in the crisis through which France was passing. As a consequence, apart from all considerations of the intrinsic merit of their programme, they were simply an obstruction to the progress and solidarity of the Revolution.

In the sitting of May 3rd Marat is denounced in the Assembly by the Girondin Deputy Beugnot, as a sanguinary regicide, on account of an article wherein he suspects certain generals of treason, and warns the army to be on its guard. The result is as often before. We read in No.650:

“They have launched against me a decree of accusation; I am ready to appear before any equitable tribunal, but I will not give myself up to tyrants, whose satellites doubtless have orders, if not to murder me during my arrest, at least to keep me confined in a dungeon. Only let the conscript-fathers, who persecute me, cite me before an English tribunal, and I engage, the procès verbal of their sitting, in my hand, to get them condemned to gaol as convicts.”

This of course meant that he intended again to adapt a subterranean life. For a whole week nothing was heard of him. The presses of the Ami had been sacked, as in the old Lafayette days. During his concealment his enemies took great pains to circulate a false Ami, a No.650, of which he says, “the tasteless and disgusting style of this false and ignoble print is only suited to the atrocities they would make me advocate, and to the calumnies poured forth in the letter pretended to have been addressed to me.” After the decree of the 3rd of May, the zeal of Marat’s persecutors became hotter than ever so much so, that before long his concealment had become habitual, varying only in point of degree. We may judge when the pursuit was hottest by the hiati occurring in the appearance of the Ami; thus in June only two numbers saw the light, although important events were taking place, showing that the authorities had been for the nonce successful in closing the mouth of their enemy. From the 7th of July to the 7th of August, ten numbers in all were published. The memorable 10th of August found Marat still in his concealment. He was not idle, however; before the close of the contest at the Tuilleries a lengthy placard bearing his signature was to be read in all quarters of the city. The following are a few extracts from it: –

“The glorious day of the 10th of August, 1792, may prove decisive for the triumphs of liberty if you know how to profit by your advantages! Dread the reaction! I repeat to you, your enemies will not spare you should they come back to power.

“No one has a greater horror of bloodshed than myself, but to prevent its flowing in streams, I exhort you to sacrifice a few drops. Above all things, hold the king, and his wife and son as hostages, and till the moment that his definite sentence shall be pronounced let him be shown at least four times daily to the people. Tremble, tremble, lest you let slip this unique opportunity which the tutelar genius of France has secured to you of escape from the abyss, and assurance of liberty!!”

Instant dissolution of the Assembly is advocated, and arrest of reactionary members.

In this placard is to be found again enunciated the principle of revolutionary policy before alluded to. We mean the summary sacrifice of two or three ringleaders of reaction, whose past conduct has proved them simply either ruthless caterers for their own particular class, or unprincipled plotters for private interests, rather than a straining of the principle of mercy into an excuse for allowing such men the opportunity of violating in the most flagrant manner, and with all the odour of respectability, the commonest principles of humanity and justice. The history of French Revolutions has taught the wisdom of this maxim, and on more than one occasion has its neglect caused “streams” of French blood to flow.

Chapter VI

With the 10th of August a new era commenced. Royalism was finally and completely overthrown, and the Republic de facto established. The day following, Marat, emerging from his cellar, indemnified himself to some extent for his own stolen presses, by demanding and obtaining those of the Royal printing office. His journal reappeared on the 13th; the number treating of the proposed election of a National Convention.

Early in September Marat was nominated member of the Committee of Public Safety, a body whose function it was to search out and arrest conspirators. Its members were nominated by the Commune, whose decrees it was charged with executing. The “People’s Friend” had a Tribune particulière assigned to him. The 10th of August thus raised him from a fugitive in a cellar to the occupant of an important public post. “Marat is the conscience of the Hotel-de-Ville,” said one of its delegates.

As a member of the municipality, Marat has received a full share of responsibility for the September massacres. Did he use his influence in any way direct or indirect to instigate the summary executions which took place during the first week in September outside the prisons of Paris? On this point I will again quote Mr. Bowen-Graves.

“Marat’s part in these last terrible events has been constantly and grossly misrepresented. He had long foreseen and foretold what would happen if foreign invasion found Paris in a state of chaos. The predicted crisis had now arrived. On the east the Germans are at the Thermopylae of France. A step more, the Revolution sinks beneath them. On the west the standard of the Vendean insurrection is already raised. Between the two lies Paris, in hardly dormant civil war. Royalty is overthrown, but royalism is rampant. The Swiss guards, the rank and file have fallen, sacrificed to their fidelity to a master who had deserted and forgotten them; but officers, courtiers, chevaliers de poignard, are lively as ever, intriguing, plotting, vapouring in street and café, openly rejoicing in the triumph which German armies will give them measuring, compasses in hand, the distance between Verdun and Paris. The newly-formed tribunal is inefficient, acquitting men, notorious for their part in the intrigues, which were the cause of all the evil. Lafayette, with his army, is believed to be marching on Paris to restore the monarchy. Republicans knew well enough what such restoration would mean. The horrors of Montauban, Arles, and Avignon are written in history, to show how well-founded were their fears. And in the midst of all this came the tidings that the one strong place between Paris and the enemy is besieged; that its resistance is a question hardly even of days. Then, while the tocsin was clanging, and the alarm cannon roaring, and the Girondin minister could find nothing better to suggest, with his unseasonable classicism, than carrying into the South the statue of liberty, Paris answered with one instinct to Danton’s thundering defiance, and perpetrated that tremendous act of self-defence at which we shudder to this day. The reaction hid its head and cowered; and within the month the ragged volunteers of the Republic were hurling back from the passes of the Argonne the finest soldiery which Europe could produce.”

The whole position of affairs is summed up in the passages quoted. The September massacres were the work of a populace driven to a despairing frenzy by the combination of circumstances above enumerated. They were not the work of one party, much less of one man, but an ebullition of popular fury, acquiesced in as a terrible necessity by all parties and by all the leading men of the Revolution. It matters not that the actual perpetrators were comparatively few in number; this indeed the rather proves the massacres simply the expression of a widespread public feeling, as otherwise they would certainly not have been tolerated, when a single corps of the 50,000 National Guards; then in Paris, could have arrested or dispersed at the shortest notice all engaged in them. It matters not that the Girondin party subsequently endeavoured to make the Commune the scapegoat in the matter; this was an obvious piece of party tactics. They must have considered the massacres necessary at the time, otherwise as Marat himself expressed it, their inaction would have been the most heinous of crimes.

As to whether these summary executions were, under the peculiar circumstances, justifiable [1], is a question unnecessary to enter upon at length in this place; there can be no doubt they were really believed at the time to be the only alternative to the annihilation of the Revolution and of all who had taken any part in it, and the subjugation of France by the European coalition. It is in this light we must regard the letter to the Departments justifying the massacres, signed by the members of the commune, Marat among them. [2] This letter was an atrocious document many will say. Under the peculiar circumstances in which it was written one might well be disposed to excuse it; however, be it so, it was an atrocious document, and “September” was inexcusable. Yet does it not seem strange that civilised mankind, as represented by respectable politicians, should shudder and hurl every epithet of opprobrium at the agents of Paris in September, 1792, and speak with the utmost respect of the agents of Versailles in May, 1871? September, 1792 – 1,800 or at most 2,000 slain, all after some trial, however brief, by a populace in a burst of despairing rage; May, 1871, obscure prisoners of war maltreated and slaughtered daily in small numbers for a month, – this consummated in the moment of victory, by a carnage estimated officially at 15,000? Yet, viewed in its true light it is not strange. To the mind of respectable politicians, the difference, consists precisely in this, – that in one case the victims were respectable well-to-do upholders of “order,” while the perpetrators had emerged from the depths of St. Antoine, – in the other, the victims were only poor workmen, while their murderers were acting under instructions from a government representing religion and property.

That Marat personally and directly caused the death of a single individual during the September affair we have not a shadow of proof; indeed the negative evidence makes all the other way, for in none of the three numbers of the Ami published between the 10th of August and the first week in September do we find any sign of a desire to instigate lawless vengeance. There is a continuous goading on of the tribunals to definite and decided action. “Hasten the trial of the traitors imprisoned in the Abbaye. If the sword of justice, at this late period, do but strike these plotters and hypocrites, we shall hear nothing more said about popular executions.” Here and there a hint that if the appointed tribunal continues flagrantly to miscarry, justice must be secured by other means; beyond this there is nothing to give colour to any assumption of personal complicity in the events we have been considering.

Marat was elected on the eleventh of the month of October member of the National Convention. From that time the Ami du Peuple ceased to exist, and its place was taken by a new journal, headed Journal de la République Française, par Marat, Ami du Peuple, Deputé à la Convention Nationale, with a new motto, Ut redeat miseris abeat Fortuna superbis. Marat’s election, as might be imagined, caused intense vexation and disquietude to the Girondin party, then in office, who, as “men of position,” dreaded lest the influence of this questionable person as an orator should equal that he had acquired as a journalist.

It was scarcely a fortnight before war was overtly declared. The occasion of the first skirmish was the sitting of September the 24th, in the debate preceding the passing of a law against inciters to assassination, when the “People’s Friend” was indirectly, but very unmistakably indicated; indeed, the law itself was really aimed at him. The day following (the 25th) a furious onslaught was made. Pétion was presiding on this occasion. The Girondist Merlin opened fire with the words:

“I demand that those who are acquainted with men in this Assembly perverse enough to desire a dictatorship or triumvirate, shall point these out, that I may poignard them. I invite Deputy Lasource, who stated yesterday that there existed in this Assembly a dictatorial party, to indicate it to me, and I declare myself ready to poignard the first who would arrogate to himself the power of a dictator.”

A voice shouts out the name of Robespierre. Danton then rises, and in a short speech obliquely indicates Marat, without naming him. Robespierre follows, and, in a speech of some length, openly renounces the friendship, political and otherwise, of the “People’s Friend.” Both decline all responsibility for the acts of the Commune. Barbaroux then fiercely attacks the Commune, and demands its supression. Finally, Cambon mounts the tribune, and says:

“I have seen placards on the walls of Paris stating the only means for ensuring public safety to be the triumvirate, and these placards are signed ‘Marat’ – such are the facts. Reply! you who deny the project of establishing a dictatorial authority in Paris.”

Marat, hitherto silent, rose to confront the Convention he declaimed in full the article in which he had expressed his views respecting a dictatorship, Ami, 741. The article in question concludes, Oh! peuple babillard, si tu savais agir! No sooner had he uttered these words than the Assembly was thrown on all sides into violent disorder. Shouts of “to the guillotine” re-echoed from the Girondins: a decree of accusation was about to be launched, when Marat mounted the tribune for the first time and demanded the parole. Silence being in some measure restored, he began: “I have a large number of personal enemies in this Assembly.” “All!, All!” shouted the Convention, rising to its feet as one man. This interruption subsiding, he continued, fully avowed the article and the placard, and sought to justify the opinions contained in them, as to the desirability in view of the crisis, of one or two competent men, whose patriotism and power of determination were alike beyond question, being intrusted with the helm of affairs. Such was, he said, his opinion. If it was wrong it was for the Girondins or other dissentients to refute it, not to endeavour by senseless clamour to prevent his exercising his right of speech as a deputy. He had never conspired, he had never circulated his views in secret, but always proclaimed them “on the housetops,” in a public journal, and on the walls of Paris, with his signature appended to them. He gave them forth as his own views for the acceptance or rejection of his fellow-citizens. Surely he had as great a right to do this as any other patriot. This maiden speech, by no means a short one, was not concluded without many interruptions, but certain deputies secured for him the chance of defending himself, and concluding what he had to say. Just as he had ended, and was about to retire, he drew a pistol from his pocket, exclaiming,

“If the decree of accusation had been launched I would have blown my brains out at the foot of this tribune.”

“This is the reward of three years of suffering and privation of every kind in the cause of liberty.”

The trenchant good sense contained in the speech in the end effectually silenced all gain-sayers, and the Convention had no other course (however unwilling to adopt it) than to pass to the order of the day.

There is one actor in the scene just described who, on account of his intimate relations with its principal figure, and the calumnies which date their origin from him, should for a moment arrest our attention. This is Barbaroux, the young Marseillais, a pupil of Marat’s in his professional days, as well as an enthusiastic friend. Upon the outbreak of the feud between Mountain and Gironde, he sided vehemently with the latter, and at the period our narrative has now reached, had become a bitter enemy of his former master. This master remarked of him on one occasion, “I have had special relations with Barbaroux at the time when he was not tormented with the mania for playing a rôle. He was then a good young man, who liked studying with me.” And in the Journal de la République a private letter was published, addressed to its editor by Barbaroux a few months previously, in which he says: “Whether I am right or wrong in my opinions, the truth or falsehood of my intellect will never change my heart. I shall always remain at once your friend and companion in misfortune.” Unlike the Girondins, Marat did not wait till his opponents were dead, and defence impossible, before he made his accusations; but Barbaroux published, after the death of the hated Montaignard, letters pretended to have been received from him, which, if genuine, would have had enormous weight had they been produced during the struggle between Mountain and Gironde, when the latter was raking up every possible circumstance against the “Mountaineers” in general, and Marat in particular. They were not then produced, although Barbaroux was amongst the foremost of his detractors, and for a very good reason, they were at the time non-existent, their origin dating from some period between Barbaroux’s flight from Paris and his death in 1794.

Chapter VII

The Girondins, notwithstanding the fiasco of the 26th of September, were not long before they returned to the charge. On October the 8th, the Committee of Public Safety was indicted in the matter of the September administration, the “People’s Friend,” as its chief member, being of course included in this indictment. Valazé made a well-studied speech, asserting, somewhat irrelevantly, that innocent persons had perished in the massacres of that month. Valazé’s speech continued to criticise the conduct of the committee in various matters, notably the arrests preceding the massacres, but as soon as it was concluded Marat rose, and silenced all further comment by remarking that the time allotted by the Convention for the investigation of the papers of the committee was four months, whereas Valazé, having only had them a few days, proceeded at once to make his report.

It was during the month of October, 1792, that Marat made his celebrated visit to General Dumouriez, in the salon of the comedian Talma. Two Parisian volunteer battalions had been accused of massacring four Prussian soldiers, who had deserted to the French ranks. There was an official report from the general to the Convention on the subject, but no detailed account had been given. The “People’s Friend” insisted upon having a procès-verbal of the whole case. To this end he visited in person all the departments of the war ministry, but no further information could he acquire. Learning, however, that on a particular evening Dumouriez was to be present at a bal masqué given by the actor Talma, he resolved to take advantage of this circumstance to obtain a personal interview.

On his arrival at the house, in the company of two friends, he was announced by Santerre (who was acting as gentleman-usher on the occasion) in a loud voice. On entering the apartment, he discovered numerous Girondins amongst the party. Pressing through the crowd, and stepping up to Dumouriez, he addressed him in the following terms:–

“We are members of the National Convention, and we come, sir, to beg you to give us some explanation relative to the affair of the ‘two battalions, the Mauconseil and the Republican,’ accused by you of having murdered four Prussian deserters in cold blood. We have searched the offices of the military committee and those of the war department; we cannot there find the least proof of the crime, and nobody can furnish information on the subject but yourself. We beg you to say whether you know all the circumstances of the affair.”

“Certainly, of my own knowledge.”

“Then it is not merely a confidential denunciation made by you on the faith of M. Duchasseau?”

“But, gentlemen, when I assert a thing I think I ought to be believed.”

“Sir, if we thought as you do on that point we should not have come hither. We have great reasons to doubt. Several members of the military committee have informed us that these pretended Prussians were four French emigrants.”

“Well, gentlemen, if that were the case?”

“Sir, that would absolutely change the state of the matter. It is the circumstances which provoked the murder that it is important to know. Now, letters from the army state that these emigrants were discovered to be spies, sent by the enemy, and that they even rose against the National Guards.”

“What, sir, do you then approve the insubordination of the soldiers?”

“No, sir, I do not approve the insubordination of the soldiers, but I hate the tyranny of the officers. I have too much reason to believe that this is a machination of Duchasseau against the patriot battalions, and the manner in which you have treated them is revolting.”

“M. Marat, you are too warm. I cannot enter into explanations with you.”

At this juncture Dumouriez walked off, followed by Marat’s two friends, while the latter himself lead some further conversation with the aide-de-camps and other officers in the salon. The visit then terminated.

“I was indignant at all that I heard, and at all the atrocity I suspected in the odious conduct of our generals. As I could not bear to stay any longer I left the party, and beheld with astonishment in the adjoining room, the doors of which were ajar, several of Dumouriez’s heiduks with drawn swords at their shoulders. I know not what could have been the object of this ridiculous farce; if it was contrived for the purpose of intimidating me, it must be admitted that the varlets of Dumouriez entertain high notions of liberty. Have patience, gentlemen, we will teach you to know it. Meanwhile rest assured your master dreads the point of my pen much more than I fear the swords of his ragamuffins.”

The scene would surely be no inapt one for a painter – the “People’s Friend,” short of stature; shabbily dressed, the brilliantly lighted ball-room, replete with every colour, the figure with whom he is conversing bedizened from head to foot with gold lace and insignia, and surrounded with gaily attired courtesans.

No sooner was the incident brought before the Convention, than the Gironde became beside itself with rage at this attack on its idol, even sinking to threats of personal violence. Indeed, its fury was now fast growing altogether ungovernable, and reckless even of the commonest principles of decency: Gangs of Girondins, National Guards, and Marseillais patrolled the streets, shouting La tête de Marat, Robespierre et Danton, et de tous ceux qui les défendront. They stopped under Marat’s window in the Rue des Cordeliers, threatening to set fire to the house. So great was the danger as to necessitate the suspension of the Journal de la République during the first week in November.

Within the Convention the excitement raged more violently than in the street. The “People’s Friend” never rose to speak but his voice was instantly drowned by yells and hisses. We read in the Journal de la République (No.46):

“I have twice sought to present my views to my colleagues as clearly and simply as possible, but as I am unable to develop them at any length, they have produced no effect; it only remains for me to appear on great occasions to foil the plots of the criminal faction (i.e., the Girondins), and to defend the rights of the people.”

To show how completely isolated he was, even within the Mountain itself, I subjoin an extract from the sitting of the Jacobin’s Club, of Sunday, December 23rd.

Robert – “It is very astonishing that the names of Marat and Robespierre are always coupled together. Marat is a patriot, he has excellent qualities I admit, but how different is he from Robespierre? The latter is discreet, moderate in his means, whereas Marat is exaggerated, and has not that discretion which characterises Robespierre. It is not sufficient to be a patriot; in order to serve the people usefully it is necessary to be reserved in the means of execution, and most assuredly Robespierre surpasses Marat in the means of execution,” &c.

Bourdon – “We ought long since to have acquainted the affiliated societies with our opinions of Marat. How could they ever connect Robespierre and Marat together? Robespierre is a truly virtuous man, with whom we have no fault to find from the commencement of the Revolution. Robespierre is moderate in his means, whereas Marat is a violent writer, who does great harm to the Jacobins (murmurs); and besides, it is right to observe that Marat does us great injury with the National Convention. The deputies imagine that we are partisans of Marat, we are called Maratists; if we show that we duly appreciate Marat, then you will see the deputies draw nearer to the Mountain where we sit, you will see the affiliated societies which have gone astray rally around the cradle of liberty. If Marat is a patriot he will accede to the motion I am going to make; Marat ought to sacrifice himself to the cause of liberty. I move that his name be erased from the list of members of this society.”

This motion excited some applause, violent murmurs in part of the hall, and vehement agitation in the tribunes.

Dufourny “I oppose the motion for expelling Marat from the society (vehement applause). I will not deny the difference that exists between Marat and Robespierre. These two writers, who may resemble one another in patriotism, have very striking differences. They have both served the cause of the people, but in different ways. Robespierre has defended the true principles with method, with firmness, and with all-becoming discretion; Marat, on the contrary, has frequently passed the bounds of sound reason and prudence. Still, though admitting the difference that exists between Marat and Robespierre, I am not in favour of the erasure. It is possible to be just without being ungrateful to Marat – he has been useful to us, he has served the Revolution with courage (vehement applause from the society and tribunes). There would be ingratitude in striking him out of the list (“yes, yes,” from all quarters). I conclude with proposing that the motion of Bourdon be rejected, and that merely a letter be written to the affiliated societies to acquaint them with the difference that we make between Marat and Robespiere (applause).”

This motion was in the end adopted.

As an instance of this debatable Jacobin’s influence with the people, I may cite, on the other hand, another incident of a different kind. “It is some days now that I was addressed by some Marseillais with the words: ‘Marat, your party increases every day – we belong to it.’ I replied: ‘Comrades, I have no party; I do not wish any, only be happy and free, that is all I desire.’” Journal de la République, No.80. On the occasion of the King’s trial, Marat voted “death without respite” in the following terms:–

“With the full conviction I have that Louis is the principal author of the misfortunes which caused so much blood to flow on the 10th of August, and of all the massacres which have sullied France since the Revolution – I vote the death of the tyrant within 24 hours.”

The nation, he said, had a right to pronounce judgment, and Louis had been guilty of what the law held to be the most heinous crime possible, he had sought to betray France into the hands of the European coalition. While proceedings were pending, he repeatedly received letters from royalists offering bribes for him to vote in favour of acquittal or banishment, or even to say one word in behalf of the accused, – “If you will but do it we are prepared to lay down a hundred thousand ecus.” Our journalist replied in laying these letters before the Committee of Public Safety; “I am for the people. I shall never be but for them. That is my profession of faith” (Journal, No.79).

The death of the King brought with it no reconciliation between Mountain and Gironde; indeed, the zeal of parties in the Convention broke out with redoubled fury. Mr. Carlyle remarks that the last act performed in unison by all the parties in the Assembly was the attendance at the funeral of Lepelletier St. Fargeau, who was assassinated in a café by a Royalist, as one of those who had voted “death,” on the evening following the King’s execution. In this ceremony singular unanimity was displayed, deputies of various shades – Marat among them – making speeches on the occasion.

With the new year, the all-absorbing question had become one of “Mountain” or “Gironde.” Outside the walls of the Convention – in the street – the great question was one of bread, within the last few months months the scarcity having been again steadily on the increase. The assignats, or paper money, as Marat had foreseen, had lately much deteriorated in value. The farmers and corndealers refused to sell, except at exorbitant prices. Many persons were making capital in this way out of the public calamity. These circumstances roused Marat’s indignation to fever pitch, and led, on the morning of the 25th, to the publication of that memorable passage in his journal:

“In every country where the ‘rights of the people’ is not an empty phrase, ostentatiously recorded on paper, the sacking of a few shops, at the doors of which the ‘forestallers’ were hanged, would soon put a stop to those malversations which are driving five millions of men to despair, and causing thousands to perish of want! Will the deputies of the people do nothing more than prate about their sufferings, and never propose any remedy to relieve them?”

It is easy enough to denounce a passage like the above as inciting to plunder and massacre, and this has been done hundreds of times by those who have not the remotest conception of the real character of Marat, or of the motives which inspired his conduct. It must be recollected that there has probably never lived a man who so keenly felt the sufferings of his fellow-men. The passage quoted must be read, moreover, side by side with other passages, showing that, although the means suggested may have been anarchical, they were not the outcome of a passionate indignation merely, however much this may have contributed to their production, but were urged in accordance with a definite principle laid down by Marat years previously.

“In a world full of the possession of others, where the indigent have nothing to call their own, they are obviously reduced to perish of hunger. Now, since they derive nothing but disadvantages from society, are they obliged to respect its laws? Doubtless, no! If society abandon them they re-enter a state of nature, and when they reclaim with force their rights, which they would not have parted with except to secure greater advantages, all authority that opposes them is tyrannical, and the judge who condemns them to death is a cowardly assassin.”

The source of inspiration whence this passage is drawn will be sufficiently apparent; it will be equally obvious that the passage in the Journal de la République is only a deductive application of this principle. Yet, even though we may repudiate the method of Rousseau, is not the principle involved defensible on other grounds than those of the Social Contract? Does not the answer to this question depend on the view we take of the uses of property – unconditionally selfish or conditionally social; if the latter view be adopted, does it not logically follow that the extraordinary hoarding up of the necessaries of life for commercial purposes in a period of scarcity – or, in other words, the taking advantage of public calamity for purposes of self-aggrandisement, even though it be done under cover of the ordinary laws of trade – is in itself a crime meriting as severe a punishment as any other form of murder. But it must be borne in mind that the paragraph in question was not the cause of the riots these had begun some days before. It was hunger, not Marat, which swayed the queues at the bakers’ shops, and swept them in torrents over the neighbouring streets.

M. Bougeart, speaking of this matter, says:–

“I know that against death from hunger our profound legislators have invented the bayonet of the gendarme, or the convict’s prison. I know that it is good taste, good manners, true religion, sound philosophy, and, above all, a guarantee of personal safety to be of the opinion of the legislator; but is it more humane, is it more just? Take note, readers: for so long as you have not replied I shall be of the opinion of Marat, and I assure you, in the name of human conscience, I shall make some proselytes.”

The following is an epitome of some of the circumstances attending this affair of the “forestallers,” or bread riots:– On the 24th February, Procureur Chalmette made a report on the subject of the want of means of subsistence in Paris, before the Council General. He demanded an advance of four millions. The Girondins objected to this, as a special favour shown to one town. Whilst the debate went on hotly in the Chamber, pillaging of provision shops proceeded in the streets. The following day, the 25th, there was a deputation to the Convention, to protest against the riotous scenes of the previous day. Barrère, who led the debate ensuing, spoke of all the troubles as the work of ultra-patriots, hinted at a particularly mischievous ultra-patriot, but did not dare to mention names. Sallis then rose. “I come to denounce to you,” said he, “one of the instigators of these troubles, it is Marat.” He then read the article containing the passage about the “forestallers.” No sooner had he concluded, than the whole Assembly rose in indignation. Marat rushed to the tribune, and repeated in substance what he had written a day or two previously in his journal. It is incontestible, he said, that the capitalists, agents, and monopolisers are nearly all supporters of the ancien régime.

“As I see no chance of changing their hearts, I see nothing but the total destruction of this accursed conspiracy that can give tranquillity to the State. To-day it redoubles its energy to distress the people by the exorbitant price of bread, the first necessary of life. Since there is no law to punish monopolisers, the people has a right to take justice into its own hands.”

However dreadful it may sound when enunciated by Marat, this is a principle practically adopted under all circumstances where ordinary law is ineffective; only usually in the interests of “property,” rather than against its abuse. It should be remembered by those who shudder at the words of Marat, that at this very period, and for long after, the common law of England caused dozens of human beings to be hanged every week, for trivial offences, such as stealing a loaf of bread; and yet the supporters of these laws are not execrated as monsters, but are merely described as unnecessarily severe in their views of justice. Marat, on the other hand, because under extraordinary circumstances he thought an example necessary from among those who were reducing the people of Paris to starvation, is denounced as a sanguinary demagogue. Marat had never learnt the right of property to outrage humanity, any more than he had learnt the right of office, however high, to outrage justice. His principle was that of him who possessed much, whether in the shape of wealth or power, much should be required; that wealthy or official criminals deserved a punishment tenfold greater than ordinary criminals. For his insistence on this great principle, if for nothing else, he deserves the eternal gratitude of mankind.

On the conclusion of his speech, Buzot moved that “M. Marat be decreed accused.” “The law is precise,” he said, “but M. Marat quibbles about its expressions; the jury will be embarrassed how to act, and we have no wish to give M. Marat a triumph in the very face of justice.” Several propositions were then made, a resolution being ultimately passed that all the instigators of the riots should be, without distinction, cited before the ordinary tribunals. “Good,” exclaimed Marat, “then pass an Act of Accusation against myself, that the Convention may prove it is devoid of all shame.” It was ultimately adopted, amid great excitement, that Marat should be sent, with the remaining accused, before the ordinary tribunals, though the executive power, in as far as the former was concerned, did not pursue the matter any further. The two following numbers of the Journal de la République are devoted to explanations of his conduct, and to a discussion on the causes of the famine.

“The cause of this scourge which distresses us lies in the mass of paper money (assignats), of which the value diminishes in inverse ratio to its multiplication. Now, diminution in value implies an increase in the price of necessaries; soon they will be so high that it will be impossible for the indigent to obtain them ... I foresaw these disorders three years ago [3], and I then did all in my power to oppose the system of assignats – above all, of assignats of small value. It is not by petty expedients that one succeeds in remedying the unfortunate consequences of a fundamentally vicious measure. The only effectual one is that which I proposed at the time, viz., to cancel the National Debt, by paying without delay the creditors of the State, each with a national bond rather than by setting afloat a large quantity of forced paper money, of which the inconvenience is the discredit, which the want of public confidence inseparable from it invariably entails,” &c., &c.

Chapter VIII

Early in March the Journal de la République ceased to exist, owing to the fact that Lacroix accused its editor of carrying on a profession – that of journalist – while he was at the same time fulfilling the office of deputy to the Convention, it being illegal for a deputy to engage in any other avocation. Marat deftly parried this stroke by altering the name of his paper to that of Publiciste de la République Française; Observations aux Français, de Marat, Ami du Peuple, Deputé à la Convention Nationale. Of course no one could object to a deputy merely publishing his observations to his constituents, so with this the matter dropped.

A singular incident occurred at the sitting of the 13th of March. A section of volunteers presented itself at the bar of the Convention, demanding amongst other things a decree of accusation against Dumouriez and his état major; this would have been the height of inexpediency inasmuch as Dumouriez was just at this time in the midst of his conquests, being about to enter Holland. Marat, commenting on the object of this deputation remarked, “I have already exposed these atrocious plots, the political liaisons of Dumouriez, his relations with the court, nevertheless I regard him as intimately bound up with the public safety since the 10th of August, and more particularly since the head of the tyrant has fallen beneath the sword of the law. He is bound to us by the success of his arms, and I appear in this tribune to combat this insensate motion, as well as to raise my voice against perfidy towards a general.” If the proposition were adopted, it would be equivalent to opening our doors to the enemy; passing on to another part of the petition, he says,

“I demand that the petitioners read the article of their petition in which they desire the heads of Gensonne, Negniard, and Guadet (Girondin deputies), atrocious crime tending to the dissolution of the Convention, and the loss of the country (unanimous applause). I have already raised my voice against these assassins. I have been to the popular society of the Cordeliers; I have there preached, and confounded these orators led on by the aristocracy.”

At an early opportunity, however, he again mounted the tribune to expose the dangers menacing the country from the Girondin party, which he supposed meditated a coup d’état. This incident is a good one as exhibiting Marat in his true light, not as painted by prejudiced historians – a man whose sole aim was the salvation of liberty – not a mere partisan but capable of calmly estimating what was expedient as well as what was just.

It was not long after this that the final breach between Mountain and Gironde took place. The last important act of the Girondin administration was the accusation and trial of Marat. It had been their aim as we have seen, to bring this about, ever since the opening of’ the Convention, and after the expiration of six months they succeeded. Marat had for a month past written repeatedly and with increasing severity against the chicanery of the Girondin faction, and in No.156 of the Publiciste had drawn a parallel between its conduct and that of Dumouriez who had, by this time, reached the lowest stage of his unpopularity, having fled across the frontier and been declared hors de la loi. On the 8th of April a deputation from the section Bon Conseil entered the Hall of the Convention to petition for the accusation of certain prominent Girondin deputies. Paris was shortly to pronounce the fate of the whole party, but it did not contemplate succumbing without a desperate struggle. In the debate which followed the presentation of the petition, Guadet, one of the deputies designated therein, said:–

“Listen to what Marat says after the scenes of the pillage of the provision shops. ‘One has indeed reason to be astonished that the people should have risen for sugar and coffee. When the people do rise, it is necessary for them to be terrible in their vengeances, so many enemies have they to overthrow.’”

Guadet then read a manifesto of Marat evoked by Dumouriez’s threat to march on Paris delivered on the 27th of March, and by his subsequent desertion:–

“Friends, we are betrayed! To arms! To arms! The hour has come when the defenders of the country must either conquer, or bury themselves beneath the ashes of the Republic. Frenchmen, never was your liberty in greater peril. Our enemies have now put the finishing stroke to their perfidies, and to consummate them. Dumouriez, their accomplice, is about to march upon Paris. The manifest treason of the generals in league with him has not admitted of a doubt, no more than that the plan of rebellion, together with his insolent boldness, are directed by the criminal faction, which has, until the decisive moment, maintained him, and which has deceived us as to his conduct; the menaces, the defeats, the plots of this traitor, of whose villainy in placing under arrest four commissioners of the Convention, which he would have attempted to dissolve, are sufficiently well known. But brothers and friends, your greatest dangers are in the midst of you. It is in the Senate that parricidal hands would tear out your vitals! Yes, the counter revolution is in the Government, in the National Convention. But already indignation inflames your courageous citizenship. Come, then Republicans, let us arm!”

On the conclusion of the quotation, Marat contented himself with the simple words, “It is true.”

A general shout of “to the Abbaye!” resounded from all sides.

Valazé observed that the address was being circulated in the departments under the signature of Marat.

“What is the use of this talk?” Marat exclaims.

“They seek to deceive you with a chimerical conspiracy, in order to smother up a conspiracy unhappily too real. Dumouriez has himself put the seal to it, in declaring his intention of marching on Paris to secure the triumph of the faction calling itself the only rational party in the Assembly, against the patriots of the Mountain.”

Danton then spoke, urging the sacredness of a deputy and suggesting that the accusations of Marat against the Girondin, and of the Girondins against Marat, should be alike referred to a committee for consideration and concluding, “If Marat be culpable, he has no intention of escaping you.” Fearing lest the opportunity of realising their intentions should slip out of their hands, the Girondins rallied to the charge in the person of their deputy, Fonfrède, who, in a violent speech, after accusing Marat of every conceivable journalistic crime, moved a decree of accusation. After considerable discussion the decree was referred to a committee for consideration, and Marat voted meanwhile under provisional arrest at the Abbaye; amid emphatic expressions of dissent from the tribunes. A copy of the decree was immediately handed to the chief official on guard in the hall. Patriots on all sides descended to the body of the building. They declared the “People’s Friend” should not be summarily arrested. The sentinels endeavoured to prevent his leaving the hall. The officer in possession of the decree was fetched. It was found unsigned either by the President or the Minister of Justice, and was therefore invalid. Thereupon the accused left, accompanied by a large crowd.

It must be remembered, that the manifesto to the departments respecting the traitor Dumouriez, constituted the main count in the indictment as submitted to the committee for consideration. The following day, on the reporter reading this to the Convention, it was greeted with unanimous applause from the Mountain, large numbers of deputies crowding to the bureau to affix their signatures to it. The Girondin conspirators had conjectured that it might possibly have to be erased from the charge sheet, so they had supplemented it with two new counts of accusation; the first based on an article recommending the dissolution of the Convention, and the second on the old affair of the forestallers unsuccessfully handled by them on a former occasion. The voting took place by Appel nominal and the decree of accusation was carried by a large majority. Marat still continued the publication of his paper, although daily expecting a summons. This did not arrive till the 22nd, and then only on great pressure from without, as the Girondists were anxious to postpone the hearing of the case till they could “pack” the tribunal with their own men. On the morning of the 23rd, a notice of the fact appeared in the Publiciste,

“People, to-morrow your incorruptible defender will present himself before the Revolutionary tribunal. He has always wished your happiness, his innocence will triumph. His enemies will be confounded. He will come out of the struggle more worthy of you and will console himself in this new trouble by the hope of the advantages the cause of liberty will derive from it.”

On the evening of the 23rd Marat constituted himself a prisoner. He was accompanied by numerous colleagues of the Convention, and by a Colonel of the National Guard, &c.

The next day, the 24th, the trial came on. The hall of the tribunal was early crowded, many persons having remained from over night, to ensure for themselves good places. On the proceedings commencing, Marat introduced himself with the words:

“Citizens, it is not a criminal whom you see before you, it is the apostle and martyr of liberty; it is only a group of factious persons and intriguers, who have obtained this decree of accusation against me.”

The act was then read and the witnesses proceeded to be examined. The audience at one time applauding, the prisoner turned to them and said,

“Citizens! My cause is yours. I defend my country; I request you to preserve the most profound silence, to deprive our enemies of the opportunity of saying that the court has been influenced in any way.”

On being asked by the president whether he had any remark to make, he recounted in a short and concise speech, his various services to the revolution, from the publication of the Chains of Slavery up to that moment. Examined as to each article of the indictment, he refuted the idea of there being any criminal intention in aught he had written, and when asked finally whether he had anything further to say in his justification, he ruthlessly criticised and exposed the administration of the Girondins – especially their conduct towards the chiefs of the Mountain, the Commune, and the Sections. He also dwelt on the fact that his accusers had been compelled by popular pressure to abandon the original basis of the indictment and to substitute for these two new charges (or, rather, old charges revived) which had nothing to do with it, thereby exhibiting the malicious intent actuating them.

“Full of confidence in the judgment, equity, and good citizenship of the tribunal, I myself desire the most rigid examination of this affair. Strong in the testimony of my conscience as to the rectitude of my intentions, and the purity of my citizenship, I do not ask indulgence, but only the most rigid justice ... I desire a consecutive reading of the denounced numbers, for it is not from isolated and excised passages that one can judge the meaning of an author; it is only by reading what precedes and what follows, that we can estimate his intentions rightly ... If, after such a perusal, there remain any doubts, I am here to dispose of them.”

The President then put the usual questions to the jury, who, after an absence of three-quarters of an hour, returned with an acquittal couched in the most laudatory terms. Marat, turning to the Court, said,

“Citizen jurors, and judges who compose the revolutionary tribunal, the lot of the traitors to the nation is in your hands protect the innocent and punish the guilty, and the country, will be saved.”

Scarcely was the acquittal pronounced than shouts of applause resounded from court, from staircase, from ante-chambers, and from corridors. As the news spread, the crowds outside in the street took up the joyful acclamation, and it was with difficulty the “People’s Friend” resisted being borne aloft shoulder high by enthusiastic patriots. Crowds thronged the streets between the Palais de Justice and the hall of the Convention. A chair was procured, and the “People’s Friend” was carried along amid deafening cheers, crowned with oak garlands (which he was compelled to wear, notwithstanding his having repudiated them when first offered). Never was such a triumph known before in Paris. The crowds reached the Convention doors, forced their way in, and bore Marat to President Lasource’s chair. A sapper named Rocher took upon himself the part of spokesman, and thus addressed him –

“Citizen President, we return to you our brave Marat. We know well how to confound all his enemies. I have already defended him at Lyons, and I shall defend him here, and the first who would take the head of Marat, must first take the head of the sapper.”

Permission to defile was accorded; men, women, and children rushed in shouting, “Long live the Republic, the Mountain and Marat.”

Marat ascended the tribune.

“Legislators, the proofs of good citizenship and of joy which resound throughout this building, are a homage rendered to the National representation, to a colleague in whose person the sacred rights of a deputy have been violated. I have been perfidiously inculpated; a solemn judgment has assured the triumph of my innocence; I bring you back a pure heart, and I shall continue to defend ‘the rights of man,’ of the citizens and of the people with all the energy nature has given me.”

From that day the fate of the Gironde was practically sealed. The people of Paris had recognised at last their friend at his true worth. His accusers, who would have killed him, lifted him instead to the pinnacle of popularity. Paris rang with his praises, and not merely Paris, for congratulations poured in on all sides from the departments.

Chapter IX

On the 16th of May, the Girondin Isnard was elected President of the Chamber. About the same time the Girondins appointed a commission of twelve to examine into the acts of the Commune, which had been accused, among other things, of imprisoning a Juge de Paix. This commission consisted of six Royalists, three Girondins, and three undecided members. It commenced by arresting the president of a section. Receiving support and approval from its nominators in this action, it continued in the same course, imprisoning Substitute Hébert, whom, however, it was compelled to release the following day. It doubled the guard round the Convention Hall, taking care to compose it of reactionary battalions, &c. Marat opened the sitting of the 27th of May by moving its dissolution.

“They have sought,” he says, “to deceive the people with an imaginary conspiracy to assassinate the hommes d’état. [1] No proof of such a conspiracy exists, or has ever existed.” He asked what other end the Commission of twelve served but the oppression of patriots, at the same time uttering the prophetic words, “if the patriots are driven to insurrection it will be your fault.” “In conclusion, I demand that the commission be suppressed as the enemy of liberty, and as tending to provoke that insurrection of the people only too likely to occur.”

The Minister of the Interior arriving, declares there is no danger. The Mayor also vouches for the quietude of the city. If troops surrounded the Convention, they were those chosen by the Commission. At six o’clock an attempt at adjournment is made, but foiled by the Mountain, who vote Herault-Sechelles, president, in the place of Isnard (who, besides being a Girondin, had achieved unenviable notoriety by his would-be prophetic threat, that the time would come when the traveller would ask on which side the Seine Paris stood), and end by decreeing the dissolution of the Commission and enlargement of the arrested persons, i.e., the original motion of Marat. The following day (the 28th) the contest renewed itself in the chamber, and the Commission was re-established by the Girondin faction. On the 29th nothing noteworthy occurred. On the 30th twenty-seven sections presented themselves in a body, demanding the destruction of the decrees of the Commission, the arrest of all its members, and the sealing of their papers.

The sitting of the 31st opened at six o’clock in the morning to the sound of the generale and tocsin. The memorable insurrection destined to annihilate Girondism, had at last come in very deed. The Minister of the Interior declared it caused by the re-habitation of the Commission. Tremendous excitement ensued in the Convention. But where is Marat?

“I left the Assembly,” he says, “to deliberate on several important matters with the Committee of Public Safety, foreseeing that no measure would be carried in the Convention. From thence I went to the house of a citizen to obtain information respecting some aristocratic leaders of the section, Buttes des haulins. On my return, I discover a great crowd in the Rue Saint Nicaise I am recognised and followed by the crowd. From all sides resound cries against the Mountain’s want of energy. From all sides I hear demanded the arrest of traitor deputies and intriguers. From all sides shouts of ‘Marat, save us.’ Arrived at the Carrousel, I observe multitudes of citizens in arms. The mob increases, always repeating the same cry. I entreat the people not to follow me; I enter the Tuillieries, and then the hotel of the Committee of Public Safety to be quit of them.” (Publiciste, 209)

He there relates all that has happened to the Committee, and insists on the pressing importance of an immediate dissolution of the obnoxious Commission of twelve. From thence he repairs, with the Maire to the Municipality, in order to prevent any disorderly movements. The Maire announces the object of his visit. Marat then says,

“Citizens, the Committee of Public Safety is occupied with important measures for the punishment and repression of traitors. Keep yourselves in readiness; deploy your forces and do not lay down your arms until you have made sure of your safety.”

On the President urging the necessity and duty of employing strictly legal means to attain its ends, Marat characteristically replies that the duty and interests of the people demand an observance of the law and the due support of public functionaries; but that when these mandatories abuse the confidence placed in them, traffic with its rights and betray its interests; when they despoil, vex, and oppress, then the people has a right to restore to itself the powers delegated to them, to employ force to make them return to their duty, to punish those who have betrayed it, and thus to save itself.

“Citizens,” he concludes, “you have no resource but your own energy, present an address to the Convention demanding the punishment of deputies faithless to the nation; keep in readiness, and do not lay down your arms until you have obtained this.”

After first visiting the Committee of Public Safety, he returns to the Convention. There he finds a renewed demand has been made for a decree of accusation against the twenty-two designated members, in addition to those constituting the Commission. Marat proposes the erasure from the list of inculpated of the names of Dussaulx, Lanthénas, and Ducas, whom he deemed more weak than sinning. On the Sunday perfect calm reigned in Paris, although the populace continued under arms. On the 2nd day of June a deputation from the Commune demanded anew the decree of accusation as the only means of ensuring order. Instead of accepting this, the Convention simply invited those who were the objects of the discord to resign. Marat thereupon offered to give in his own resignation if the decree were passed, a proposition which was about being carried, when an announcement was made that the Hall was surrounded by armed bands, meant to prevent the deputies from leaving until they had acceded to the popular demands. The fact being apparently verified, it was decided that the President should go forth at the head of the Convention.

“He descends from his seat,” writes Marat, “nearly all the members following him, forces open the bronze door, while the guard makes way. Instead of at once returning and demonstrating thereby the falsity of these clamours, he conducts the Convention in procession round the terraces and gardens. [2] I had remained at my post in the company of about thirty other ‘Montaignards.’ The tribunes, impatient at not seeing the Assembly return, began to murmur loudly; I sought to appease them, rushed after the Convention, and found it at the Pont-Tournant. I exhort it to return to its post; it returns, and re-assumes its functions. The proposition is re-opened upon the decree of accusation; it passes by a large majority, and the people retire peaceably. Thus passed without the shedding of blood, without outrage of any sort, without disorder, a day of alarms which saw a hundred thousand citizens assembled in arms, provoked by six months of machinations and attempts, besides atrocious calumnies, perpetrated by their cowardly oppressors.” (Publiciste, 209.)

Such was the end of the Girondist faction, thirty-two placed under arrest, and the remainder escaping into the provinces, there to experience divers fates, for the most part worse, than that of their brethren in Paris. The same day Marat addressed the following letter to the Convention:–

“Impatient to open the eyes of the nation, abused as to my intentions by so many hired libellers, unwilling to be regarded as an object of discord, and ready to sacrifice all to the return of peace – I hereby renounce the exercise of my function as deputy, until judgment has been passed on the accused representatives. May the late scandalous scenes never be repeated in the Convention! May all its members sacrifice their passions to their duties! May my colleagues of the Mountain let the whole nation see that if they have not as yet fulfilled all their pledges, it is because their efforts have been thwarted by wicked men.” (Publiciste, No.209)

From the time of Marat’s acquittal by the tribunal, a great change had been noticeable in the Publiciste. Numbers entirely from his pen had become rare, the paper was filled up for the most part with letters, to which were added simply the editor’s reflections. The excitement of the trial, coupled with the enthusiasm attending its result, proved too great a strain for his powers, already enfeebled by upwards of three years of suffering and privation of every kind. The inflammatory disease, long slumbering in his system, showed signs of awakening; on the 5th of June he took to his bed. M. Bougeart remarks,

“The redaction of the Publiciste, is a veritable bulletin of his health. When the articles are long, the invalid is better; when they are but a few lines his prostration is complete.” (Bougeart, Vol. II., 254).

The truth of his words, “I am for the people; I shall never be but for them,” he made good up to his last moment for in the midst of agonising suffering his one thought was for the triumph of liberty and the true principles of the Revolution. He complains in No.224 of the Publiciste, that he had addressed several letters on public affairs to the President of the Convention which had not been so much as read. Ten days afterwards, he writes, regarding the rumour that the Girondin volunteers of the departments were about combining to march on Paris:

“Let them come; they will find Thuriot, Lindet, St. Just, all the brave Montaignards; they will see Danton, Robespierre, Panis, &c., so often calumniated; they will find in them intrepid defenders of the people. Perhaps they will come to see the dictator, Marat; they will behold a poor devil who would give all the dignities of the earth for a few days’ health, but always a hundred times more concerned for the welfare of the people than for his malady.”

In the last number of the Publiciste, that of the 14th of July, appeared one of his most truly prophetic judgments of character – it was concerning Barrère. It is to be found in an article on the composition of the Committee of Public Safety.

“Among its members there is one ... whom I regard as the most dangerous enemy of the country. It is Barrère, whom Saint Foix indicated to the monarch as one of those Constitutionalists of whom he could make the most. As regards myself, I am convinced that he swims between two streams, to see which one will gain the ascendant; it is he who has paralysed all efforts of vigour, and who enchains us with a view of strangling us. I challenge him to furnish proof to the contrary when, in conclusion, I denounce him as a disguised Royalist”

Chapter X

During the last week or two of Marat’s life, the house was besieged by inquiries after his health. On the 12th of July the Jacobin Club sent a deputation. The President, in his report, says:

“We have been to see our brother Marat, he is very thankful for the interest you take in him. We found him in his bath, a table and inkstand and some journals surrounding him, occupying himself unceasingly with public affairs. It is not a serious illness from which he is suffering, but an indisposition, which has not yet seized the right side; there is much pent-up patriotism comprised in a very little body; ... he complains of forgetfulness on the part of the Convention, in neglecting to read certain measures of public safety he had addressed to it.”

In replying to another deputation (that of the Cordeliers), he said:

“Ten years of life, more or less, does not occupy my thoughts; my one desire is that I may say with my last breath, I die contented – the country is saved.”

I quote from M. Bougeart a description of the domicile of the “People’s Friend,” in the Rue des Cordeliers, now Rue l’Ecole de Medicine, No.22.

“Situated on the first floor, it was composed, if we may judge of it from the procès verbal of five rooms; an ante-chamber, lighted by a window looking on to the left. On entering this ante-chamber, and placing one’s back to the door, three apartments presented themselves on the same plan. One to the right, lighted by a window looking on to the court; to the left a bed-chamber, having a view of the street through two casements of Bohemian glass; and between these two rooms a small apartment, serving as a bath-room. The fifth room was the salon, which was entered by a door from the ante-chamber on the left, and also looked out upon the street. Publication de M.C. Vatel. The personnel was composed of Marat, Simonne, Catherine Evrard, sister of Simonne, Jeannette Maréchal, cook, and Laurent Bas, who was connected with the journal,” &c.

On Saturday, the 13th of July, a vehicle stops at the door, and a young woman alights, who requests to see the “People’s Friend,” as she states she has important matters to disclose. Simonne replies that this is impossible, as the invalid is ordered not to see anyone. The young woman insists upon the importance of her visit; Simonne is inexorable. At last the visitor retires. In the evening, about seven o’clock, Marat receives a letter running thus:

“I come from Caen. Your love for your country ought to make you wish to know the plots which are there being projected. I await your reply.”

About half-an-hour afterwards the young woman again presents herself at the door of the ante-chamber. She is this time repulsed by the concierge of the house, who happened to be there, but Marat, hearing the altercation ensuing, calls out that the citoyenne is to be allowed to enter.

Marat is, as usual, in his bath, covered by a long rug, with a plank laid across it for him to write upon. He is at the very moment occupied with the number of his journal which appeared the next day, containing the article respecting Barrère, already quoted. Simonne leaves the room upon Charlotte Corday’s entering. The latter, finding herself alone with Marat, takes a seat by the side of the bath. He commences: “What is passing, then at Caen?” “Eighteen deputies in accord with the Department [2] are supreme there.” “What are their names?” The list of names having been taken down, Marat is stated to have added, “Ils ne tarderont pas à etre guillotinés (it will not be long before they are guillotined).” Such, at least, were the words the murderess at first reported him to have said; but later, after having had time to arrange her narrative, she changed this into “Je les ferais bientôt tous guillotinés à Paris (I will shortly have them all guillotined in Paris).” At that moment she rises, and drawing a long knife, deals him a terrific blow in the side. “A moi chère amie! À moi!” cries Marat, and falls back. Royalists, Constitutionalists, and Girondins could do no more – Marat was dead!

All are at once aroused. Simonne rushes towards them both, exclaiming, Ah, mon Dieu, il est assassiné. Confusedly she cries for succour; perceiving the assassin defending herself vigorously against the man Laurent Bas and the cook, she springs upon her and flings her to the ground. Returning to the corpse, she endeavours in vain to staunch the blood. The knife had penetrated under the clavicle of the right side, so deeply that the surgeon, some minutes afterwards, could make his first finger pass the whole of its length through the wounded lung. (Bougeart, vol.ii., p.265)

The assassin endeavoured to escape, and had already reached the ante-chamber, when Bas seized a chair and felled her to the ground. She again rose, but was held fast until effectually hemmed in by a crowd of patriots ready to tear her to pieces. The Comissary of Police arriving, Charlotte Corday was searched. Upon her was found the following letter, evidently intended for use in case her visit should have been again unsuccessful:

“I wrote to you this morning. Marat, have you received my letter? I could not believe you had, as they refused me entrance; I trust that to-morrow you will accord me an interview. I repeat that I come from Caen. I have secrets to reveal to you of the utmost importance to the safety of the Republic. Besides all this, I am persecuted for the cause of liberty. I am unhappy; this, of itself, is sufficient to give me a claim on your protection.”

This last sentence might truly serve as an epitaph for the “People’s Friend.” In it is indicated his whole career. Volumes could not speak more for Marat than this one sentence, penned by his assassin.

The news rapidly spread over Paris; all the clubs were astir. Every Montaignard trembled for his life. “We shall all be assassinated,” were the words heard on every side. The interrogatory of Charlotte Corday took place on the spot, and it was four hours – just upon midnight – before she was placed in a coach, destined for the prison of the Abbaye. It was with difficulty that the exasperated crowd, both within and outside the house, were prevented from executing summary justice.

The following day the question was brought before the Convention.

“A great crime has been committed upon the person of a representative of the people,” said the President. “Marat has been assassinated in his own house.”

Various sections then presented themselves with addresses, demanding that his remains should be transported to the Pantheon. The delegates of the section Contrat Social announced themselves thus: “Where art thou, David? Thou hast transmitted to posterity the image of Lepelletier, dying for the country; there remains yet another picture for thee.” To which David answers, “And I will paint it.” Drouet advised moderation and patience, urging that a violent outbreak of some sort was all that the Girondins wanted as a pretext for exciting the Departments against Paris. Upon the proposition of Chabot, the Covention decided on the 15th to be present in a body at the funeral. The President, on one occasion during the debate, said: “Those who unceasingly talk of their morality, of their principles, of their attachment to the laws, have shown themselves capable of the most atrocious crime.” The tribunes shouted, “Yes, yes; we will avenge him!”

At the Jacobin’s Club, Laureant Bas, the printer, became for the nonce a hero; his least word was hung upon with the utmost avidity by all – such was the eagerness for details of the tragedy. Bentabole, one of the society, spoke the following eulogy:

“It is noble, undoubtedly, to hear citizens proposing to replace Marat, but this task is not so easy as many think. When we have found a man who, like Marat, has spent for four years whole nights meditating on the welfare of the people and the fall of tyrants, who has combated with equal audacity kings, priests, nobles, intriguers, villains, and conspirators; who has braved iron, fire, poison, prison, even the scaffold, such an one will be worthy to replace Marat, and ought, after him, assuredly to hold the first rank.”

Robespierre thought it was not the time then to give the people the spectacle of a public funeral; but that after the Republic had come off finally victorious, then would be the appropriate occasion for a public recognition of its benefactors and martyrs.

On the 16th, the brother of Lepelletier, with Camille Desmoulins, drew up an address to all Frenchmen on the murder of Marat. They were requested to do this by the Jacobins, who desired that a public recognition might be sent to the affiliated societies in the Departments. The sculptor Beauvallet was commissioned by the Council General to mould a bust of the popular martyr. Although. more than two days had elapsed since the murder, nothing had been decided as to the funeral. Crowds uncreasingly thronged the Rue des Cordeliers. Simonne, almost stupefied with grief, refused to leave the room where her loved one had breathed his last.

It was on Tuesday evening, the 16th, that the funeral took place. The coffin was laid upon a sort of bed, and borne by twelve men. Children dressed in white and carrying in their hands branches of cypress, surrounded the body. The entire Convention, led by the President, followed, next came the municipal authorities, then the clubs, while bringing up the rear followed an enormous crowd.

The Procession, on leaving the Rue des Cordeliers, passed over the Pont-Neuf, along the Quai de Ferraille, across the Pont-au-Change, and from thence to the Cordelier’s Club. The interment in the garden of the club was then proceeded with. The cortege chanted patriotic airs, while every five minutes a salvo of cannon was fired from the Pont-Neuf.

The grave was situated under the very trees where Marat had so often addressed his colleagues on the burning questions of the day. Martin, the sculptor, had devised a tomb of granite rocks, with an iron door in the centre. Engraved upon it was the epitaph, “Here lies Marat, the ‘People’s Friend,’ assassinated by the enemies of the people, July 13th, 1793.” After a discourse from the President of the Convention and certain other persons in authority, the crowd began to defile before the monument under the banners of the clubs, each section stopping a moment at the grave while its orator spoke a few words. One of these, Guirant by name, observed: “You, who have seen nothing in Marat but crimes; you who ceaselessly speak of him as a man of blood, produce the names of his victims.” He might well make this demand, for among the sixty-four persons who had been guillotined during the past twelve months, not one had been denounced or even referred to by Marat. (Vide Bougeart, tome ii, p.284, et seq.)

During the whole of the night crowds pressed around the tomb. Speeches by torchlight, embodying vows of devotion to liberty and the Republic, were made. The following day the removal of the heart of Marat to the building of the Cordeliers took place, a splendid porcelain vase being chosen as its receptacle. Twenty-four members of the Convention, and twelve of the Commune, took part in this second funeral ceremony.

A deputation announced that on Sunday, the 28th, an altar would be raised around the heart of Marat. Sundry speeches ensued, drawing parallels between the character of Marat and that of the founder of Christianity, but none of sufficient importance to merit reproduction. The urn containing the remains was suspended from the roof of the large hall of the Cordeliers. The President closed the ceremony with the words,

“Awake, Cordeliers! it is time. Let us hasten to avenge Marat: let us hasten to dry the tears of France. We have sworn that his enemies shall be proscribed; the oath is sacred – we have sworn it to the people.”

Chapter XI

The oft-mooted question whether the fugitive Girondins were parties to the murder of the “People’s Friend,” will probably never be altogether satisfactorily answered. That they were not directly so is tolerably certain, but that they had not in the hearing of the assassin spoken of assassination as justifiable, or expressed a desire that he might be assassinated, in some general way, which suggested the crime to her, is by no means so certain. She came from Caen, the seat of Girondism, and she had had communication with certain prominent Girondins there notably Barbaroux, one of the most ardent of them.

There has been much inflated sentimentality bestowed by historians on Charlotte Corday. All that the facts of the case tend to show is, that she was mainly actuated by a craze of vanity. She desired to play a rôle, and pose herself as a heroine before the public gaze. She had adopted Girondin principles; had heard much of the recent overthrow of the Gironde, and imprisonment of its deputies by the Mountain. The idea of assassinating one of those chiefs of the Mountain, whose names she had learnt to detest, suggested itself to her as a means of satisfying this vanity. The name of Marat was uppermost at the time, and perhaps, as she thought, from his prostrate condition he was easiest of access. Marat accordingly was selected as the victim. Her studiously theatrical conduct during her trial and at her execution tends to support this view. Those portrayals of her, as actuated by an exalted sense of patriotism, have no warrant in fact, and may be attributed, in part at least, to that unwholesome sympathy with female criminals, especially when possessed of personal attractions, the extreme form of which is to be seen in the Western States of America. This, intensified in the present instance by hatred of Marat, is quite sufficient to account for the verdict of historians.

The Rue des Cordeliers was re-named Rue Marat shortly after the funeral; Montmartre was also called Mont-Marat. The Rue and Faubourg Montmartre received a like designation. It was proposed to re-name Havre-de-Grace, Havre-de-Marat, such was the enthusiasm even in the Departments. Women christened their children Marat. “We will give them for a gospel,” said one, “the complete works of this great man.” Every patriot eagerly procured either a bust or a portrait of the deceased “People’s Friend.”

The painter, David, according to promise, executed a large cartoon representing the assassination. By the side of the tomb of Lazouski on the Carrousel, was erected an obelisk, under which was placed the bust, the lamp, the writing-desk, and the bath of Marat. Before long, innumerable civic crowns covered the place. Hymns to his memory by the hundred were composed. Numerous fetes and pageants in his honour were given by patriotic societies, accompanied with hymns to liberty, &c. The example of Paris was before long followed by the whole of Revolutionary France.

On search being made by the Commune, the day after the funeral, only twenty-five sous (en assignat) were found in Marat’s room, showing that he must have lived literally from hand to mouth. Unlike certain living pamphleteer politicians, he did not possess that happy faculty of combining the disinterested service of humanity with large commercial profits. For some time previous to his death, Marat had been troubled by his inability to pay certain outstanding debts. But these, it would seem, were ultimately all settled during his life-time, for although the Convention agreed to pay them out of the national funds, no creditor presented himself.

No sooner had the first burst of indignant enthusiasm following the assassination subsided, than the enemies of Marat began to pour forth their calumnies against his memory. No one troubled themselves to refute these calumnies, till on the 8th of August, the figure of his widow, attenuated through grief and privation, was to be seen at the bar of the Convention.

Citizens,” said she, “you see before you the widow of Marat; I do not come here to ask you favours, such as cupidity would covet, or even such as would relieve indigence; Marat’s widow needs no more than a tomb. Before arriving at that happy termination to my existence, however, I come to ask that justice may be done in respect to the reports, recently circulated against the memory of at once the most intrepid, and the most outraged, defender of the people.”

The Convention remained silent, the President not even replying. It well knew it had allowed disgusting caricatures and obscene libels to be circulated with impunity. Six weeks after this, Albertine, Marat’s sister, who had now come to live with Simonne, in a pamphlet entitled Réponse de la Soeur de l’Ami du Peuple aux detracteurs de Marat, ably refuted the most seemingly plausible of these calumnies.

A certain Jacques Roux had the effrontery to continue the publication of the Publiciste, under the name of Publiciste de la Republique par l’Ombre de Marat, with the old epigram, and taking it up at the number at which it had left off. This lasted for more than a fortnight, and it was only stopped on Simonne’s denunciation; the Convention, although not over-careful of her husband’s memory, not caring to see his views travestied by a disguised Royalist. The presses of Marat were given over to the Jacobin’s Club. An abortive attempt to re-establish the Ami du Peuple was made by the Cordeliers. On the 20th of January, 1794, the latter society defiled into the Convention Hall bearing before them the urn containing the heart of Marat. They requested that the Assembly would decree the re-publication of the most important of his political writings, and their transmission and circulation in the Departments. The motive for this request was a double one – to spread Republican principles, and at the same time to place Simonne Marat out of the reach of poverty. The petition, however, was not acceded to by the Convention.

On the 12th of Brumaire, anno III. (2nd of November, 1794), an announcement was to be seen in the Journal of the Mountain of a re-publication of Marat’ works, and was followed shortly after by a prospectus of the complete political works, from the Chains of Slavery downwards, issued by Simonne.

On the 22nd of Brumaire, anno II. (24th of November, 1793), David proposed for Marat the honours of the Pantheon, already accorded to Mirabeau and Le Pelletier. The motion was carried, but, strange to say, was not put into effect before the 21st of September, 1794, nearly two months after the fall of Robespierre, when the reaction had already commenced. The Pantheonisation was, notwithstanding, performed with all due ceremony, the remains of Mirabeau being thrust out at a side door at the same time that those of Marat reached the principal entrance of the Pantheon. But the reaction did not long permit them to rest there. In February they were removed and interred in a neighbouring burial-ground, while at the same time the busts in the public buildings were destroyed, and the. names of the places called after Marat, changed, &c.

Simonne continued to live with Albertine till her death, on the 24th of February, 1824 from the consequences of a fall from a staircase.

On the 6th November, 1841, the following notice appeared in the Siecle:–

“The sister of the famous Marat has just died, at the age of eighty-three years, in a garret in the Rue de la Barillerie, in the midst of the most profound misery, having no one beside her on her death-bed but a grocer and a porteress, the only friends remaining to her. This lady, whose features strongly recalled those of her brother, lived for a long time on the proceeds of her industry in making hands for watches, a kind of work in which she is said to have excelled. She was well acquainted with the Latin language. Age having come with its infirmities, she had fallen into great distress. Four neighbours and friends accompanied her remains to the public burial-ground (fosse Commune).”

Sit terra levis.


In the foregoing pages we have followed, in all its important details, the career of one of the chief actors in that great epoch-making event, or rather, series of events, in which we may, fairly see the commencement of the modern era, and the final close of the mediaeval. The main course of the French Revolution, subsequently to the death of Marat, will be familiar to every one. The Terror – Robespierre – Thermidor – the Reaction. It is idle to speculate on the course the Revolution might have taken had Marat lived. The assassination, in reality, only precipitated his death by a few weeks. As it was, the death of Marat proved the timely removal of an insuperable obstacle to the criminal designs of Robespierre, who was not long before showing himself in his true character.

Marat may be regarded as, the embodiment of the great practical side of the “Modern Revolution,” as well as one of the noblest of human feelings, sympathy with suffering and its correlative indignation at oppression. He was the personification of Equality. His sympathy was of a unique kind; he seemed to feel literally in his own person the sufferings of those with whom he sympathised. It was this feeling that goaded him on to that incessant and excessive activity, which must under any circumstances have prematurely caused his death. He looked at all things solely and wholly from one point of view. Seeing and feeling the suffering of the people, the one aim of all he did and wrote was the alleviation of this suffering. Every thing which did not directly lead up to this goal was indifferent to him. All things conducing to it were righteous and all things tending in an opposite direction, however lawful in the eyes of the world, were to him criminal. His vision was bounded by a horizon, where he saw the necessaries of life within the reach of all. He had no ideal Republic, before him, like Anarchis Clootz, or Chaumette. He would have tolerated or even supported the monarchy, so long as he thought the monarchy not incompatible with the freedom and happiness of the people. As soon as he saw in it an obstruction to the realisation of his great object, he became republican. At the same time it should be remembered that he had never from the first regarded the king in any other light than as the highest functionary of the people, as strictly answerable to the people as any functionary. The transition from such a conception as this to pure Republicanism, every one must admit to involve no material change of standpoint.

I hope that my sketch has succeeded in dispelling, in the reader’s mind, the mass of atrocious, though somewhat nebulous libels which, during nearly ninety years, have accumulated around the memory of the “People’s Friend.” His moral steadfastness and logical adhesion to principle, through good report and through evil report, must, I think, command at least respect from all, who are capable of appreciating nobleness and single-mindedness in a public career.

It is easy to pick holes in Marat’s character, still easier in his political programme. As regards the first, it may be said that he was ambitious, and that he loved fame. To this I would reply by challenging the first public-man (certainly political leader) who is without ambition of some sort, to cast the first stone at Marat. That he was not insensible to fame is conceded; but the outspoken and vehement temperament to which so many of his seemingly sanguinary utterances may be attributed, has probably also to answer for much of this apparent egotism. Nothing is a greater misfortune for a man’s reputation, than (to use a colloquial phrase) for him to wear his heart on his sleeve. Marat spoke and wrote, often injudiciously, what he thought and felt at the moment, and for this his memory has suffered, probably more than that of any other man.

That his political programme, his basis of action, was narrow, is also true. He failed to recognize the synthetic character of human life and interests. He failed to grasp the conception of progress as a whole, and, above all, to see that speculative reconstruction is one of its essential conditions. In the recognition of this fact (whatever we may think of their solution of it), the Hébertist party were far in advance of him. Marat was, in short, no idealist, but a practical man, though the virtue of logical consistency, usually so conspicuous by its absence in practical men was eminently present in him. He accepted the Social contract of Rousseau as his basis, and upon this he founded his Plan de Constitution and Plan de Legislation Criminelle. His journalistic writings were, for the most part simply applications of these two works to the exigencies of the situation and events as they presented themselves. Yet if his basis was narrow, and to some extent fallacious, no man ever laboured more untiringly or more consistently, up to his light, in the service of Humanity and Progress; and though, for the time being, his work was abortive and his name calumniated, there can be little, doubt but that when mankind is once united in a Human ideal and a social aim, the future will recognise one of its noblest precursors in the “People’s Friend,“ JEAN PAUL MARAT.