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Enraged Ones

Leaders Jacques Roux
Théophile Leclerc
Jean Varlet
Claire Lacombe
Founded1792;227 years ago (1792)
Dissolved1794;225 years ago (1794)
Split from Jacobin Club
Ideology Direct democracy
Political position Far-left
Colours     Red

The Enraged Ones (French : Les Enragés) were a small number of firebrands known for defending the lower class and expressing the demands of the radical sans-culottes during the French Revolution. [1] They played an active role in the 31 May 31 – 2 June 1793 Paris uprisings that forced the expulsion of the Girondins from the National Convention, allowing the Montagnards to assume full control. [2]

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary or other means and changing value systems in fundamental ways.

<i>Sans-culottes</i> radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes during French Revolution

The sans-culottes were the common people of the lower classes in late 18th century France, a great many of whom became radical and militant partisans of the French Revolution in response to their poor quality of life under the Ancien Régime. The word sans-culotte, which is opposed to that of the aristocrat, came in vogue in 1792, during the demonstration of 20 June 1792. The name sans-culottes refers to their clothing, and through that to their lower-class status: culottes were the fashionable silk knee-breeches of the 18th-century nobility and bourgeoisie, and the working class sans-culottes wore pantaloons, or trousers, instead. The sans-culottes, most of them urban labourers, served as the driving popular force behind the revolution. They were judged by the other revolutionaries as "radicals" because they advocated a direct democracy, that is to say, without intermediaries such as members of parliament. Though ill-clad people and ill-equipped, with little or no support from the upper class, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars.


The Enragés became associated with this term for their angry rhetoric appealing to the National Convention to take more measures that would benefit the poor. Jacques Roux, Jean-François Varlet, Jean Théophile Victor Leclerc and Claire Lacombe, the primary leaders of the Enragés, were strident critics of the National Convention for failing to carry out the promises of the French Revolution. [1]

Jacques Roux French priest and revolutionary

Jacques Roux was a radical Roman Catholic priest who took an active role in politics during the French Revolution. He skillfully expounded the ideals of popular democracy and classless society to crowds of Parisian sans-culottes, working class wage earners and shopkeepers, radicalizing them into a dangerous revolutionary force. He became a leader of a popular far-left.

Jean-François Varlet was a leader of the Enragé faction in the French Revolution.

Jean Théophile Victor Leclerc, a.k.a. Jean-Theophilus Leclerc and Theophilus Leclerc d'Oze, was a radical French revolutionist and publicist. After Jean-Paul Marat was assassinated, Leclerc assumed his mantle.

The Enragés were not a unified party, rather the individual figureheads that comprised the group identified as the Enragés worked for their own objectives and evidence of cooperation is inconclusive. [3] As individual political personalities, the Enragés were cynical to the point of anarchism, suspicious of most political organizations and individuals and they resisted ties to others. [4] The leaders did not see themselves as part of a shared movement and Roux even called for Varlet's arrest. [5] The notion of the Enragés as a cohesive group was perpetuated by the Jacobins as they lumped their critics Leclerc and Roux into one group. [6]

Anarchism is an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that rejects hierarchies deemed unjust and advocates their replacement with self-managed, self-governed societies based on voluntary, cooperative institutions. These institutions are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as distinct institutions based on non-hierarchical or free associations. Anarchism's central disagreement with other ideologies is that it holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful.

Jacobin The more radical constitutional reform group in the French Revolution

The Society of the Friends of the Constitution, after 1792 renamed Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Freedom and Equality, commonly known as the Jacobin Club or simply the Jacobins, became the most influential political club during the French Revolution of 1789 and following. The period of their political ascendency includes the Reign of Terror, during which time well over ten thousand people were put on trial and executed in France, many for political crimes.

Primary demands

In 1793, Jacques Roux delivered a speech at the National Convention known as the Manifesto of the Enragés that represents the essential demands of the group. He asserted that freedom and equality were thus far "vain phantoms" because the rich had profited from the French Revolution at the expense of the poor. To remedy this, he proposed measures for price controls, arguing: "Those goods necessary to all should be delivered at a price accessible to all". He also called for strict punishments against actors engaged in speculation and monopoly. He demanded the National Convention take severe action to repress counterrevolutionary activity, promising to "show them [enemies] those immortal pikes that overthrew the Bastille". Lastly, he accused the National Convention of ruining the finances of the state and encouraged the exclusive use of the assignats to stabilize finances. [7]

In economics, profit in the accounting sense of the excess of revenue over cost is the sum of two components: normal profit and economic profit. All understanding of profit should be broken down into three aspects: the size of profit, the portion of the total income, and the rate of profit. Normal profit is the profit that is necessary to just cover the opportunity costs of an owner-manager or of a firm's investors. In the absence of this profit, these parties would withdraw their time and funds from the firm and use them to better advantage elsewhere. In contrast, economic profit, sometimes called excess profit, is profit in excess of what is required to cover the opportunity costs.

Price controls Governmental restrictions on the prices that can be charged for goods and services

Price controls are restrictions, usually set in place and enforced by governments, on the prices that can be charged for goods and services in a market. The intent behind implementing such controls can stem from the desire to maintain affordability of goods even during shortages, and to slow inflation, or, alternatively, to ensure a minimum income for providers of certain goods or to try to achieve a living wage. There are two primary forms of price control, a price ceiling, the maximum price that can be charged, and a price floor, the minimum price that can be charged. A well-known example of a price ceiling is rent control, which limits the increases in rent. A widely-used price floor is minimum wage. Historically, price controls have often been imposed as part of a larger incomes policy package also employing wage controls and other regulatory elements.

Speculation is the purchase of an asset with the hope that it will become more valuable in the near future. In finance, speculation is also the practice of engaging in risky financial transactions in an attempt to profit from short term fluctuations in the market value of a tradable financial instrument—rather than attempting to profit from the underlying financial attributes embodied in the instrument such as capital gains, dividends, or interest.

Formation of the Enragés

The Enragés formed in response to the Jacobin's reluctance to restrain the capitalist bourgeois. Many Parisians feared that the National Convention protected merchants and shopkeepers at the expense of the sans-culottes. The Enragés, though not a cohesive body, offered the working poor a platform to express their dissent. Their dissent was often conveyed through riots, public demonstrations and passionate oratory.

Merchant businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others

A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. In 16th-century Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: meerseniers referred to local traders and koopman (Dutch: koopman referred to merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances and offering added-value services such as credit and finance.

Shopkeeper individual who owns or manages a shop

A shopkeeper is an individual who owns or runs a shop. Also known as a "Storey". Generally, shop employees are not shopkeepers, but are often incorrectly referred to as shopkeepers. At larger companies, a shopkeeper is usually referred to as a manager, since the owner is not able to manage the business being a single shopkeeper, so this term could apply to larger firms generally and be a separate duty.

The working poor are working people whose incomes fall below a given poverty line due to lack of work hours and/or low wages. Largely because they are earning such low wages, the working poor face numerous obstacles that make it difficult for many of them to find and keep a job, save up money, and maintain a sense of self-worth.

Jacques Roux and Jean-Francois Varlet emboldened the Parisian working poor to approach the Jacobin Club on 22 February 1793 and persuade them to place price controls on necessary goods. The Enragés appointed two females to represent the movement and their agenda to the National Convention. However, the National Convention refused to grant them an audience. This provoked outrage and criticism throughout Paris and some went as far as to accuse the National Convention of protecting the merchant elite's interests at the expense of the sans-culottes. Further attempts for the Enragés to communicate their position were denied by the National Convention. Determined to be heard, they responded with revolt. They plundered the homes and businesses of the merchant elite, employing direct action to meet their needs. The Enragés were noted for using legal and extra legal means to achieve their ends. [8]

In economics, a necessity good or a necessary good is a type of normal good. Necessity goods are products and services that consumers will buy regardless of the changes in their income levels, therefore making these products less sensitive to income change. Examples include repetitive purchases of different durations such as haircuts, habits including tobacco, everday essentials such as electricity and water, and critical medicine such as insulin. As for any other normal good, an income rise will lead to a rise in demand, but the increase for a necessity good is less than proportional to the rise in income, so the proportion of expenditure on these goods falls as income rises. If income elasticity of demand is lower than unity, it is a necessity good. This observation for food, known as Engel's law, states that as income rises, the proportion of income spent on food falls, even if absolute expenditure on food rises. This makes the income elasticity of demand for food between zero and one.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Elite group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual, social or economic status

In political and sociological theory, the elite are a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, the "elite" are "those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type."

The Enragés were composed of members within the National Convention and the sans-culottes. They illuminated the internal and external war the sans-culottes battled. They complained that the National Convention ordered men to fight on the battlefield without providing for the widows and orphans remaining in France. They emphasized the unavailability of basic necessities, particularly bread. In his Manifesto of the Enragés, Jacques Roux colorfully expressed this sentiment to the National Convention, stating: "Is it necessary that the widows of those who died for the cause of freedom pay, at the price of gold, for the cotton they need to wipe away their tears, for the milk and the honey that serves for their children?". [9]

They accused the merchant aristocracy of withholding access to goods and supplies to intentionally drive up prices. Roux demanded that the National Convention impose capital punishment upon unethical merchants who used speculation, monopolies and hoarding to increase their personal profits at the expense of the poor. The Enragés labeled price gouging as counter-revolutionary and treason. This sentiment extended to those who sympathized with the recently executed King Louis XVI. They felt that those who sympathized with the monarchy would also sympathize with those who hoarded goods. It is not surprising that many within the Enragés actively worked against the Girondin faction and indeed they contributed to the demise of the moderate Girondins, who had fought to spare the king. Those who adhered to the ideologies presented in the Manifesto of the Enragés wished to emphasize to the National Convention that tyranny was not just the product of monarchy and that injustice and oppression did not end with the execution of the king. In their view, oppression existed whenever one stratum of society sought to monopolize the majority of resources while simultaneous preventing others from gaining access to those same resources. In their view, the pursuit of resources was acceptable, but the act of limiting access to resources was punishable by death.

The Enragés called on the National Convention to restrict commerce that it might not "consist of ruining, rendering hopeless, or starving citizens". [7] While the Enragés occasionally worked within political structures, their primary objective was achieving social and economic reform. They were a direct action group, attempting to meet the immediate needs of the working poor. [8]

Women in the Enragés

Jean-Francois Varlet understood the enormous influence women possessed, particularly within the French Revolution. Varlet formed the Enragés by provoking and motivating working poor women and organizing them into a semi-cohesive mobile unit. The Enragés often appointed women as speakers to represent the movement in the National Convention. Revolutionary proto-feminists held vital positions within the Enragés, including Claire Lacombe and Pauline Léon. The proto-feminists of the French Revolution are credited with inspiring feminist movements in the 19th century. [1]

Key leaders

Jacques Roux

Jacques Roux, a Roman Catholic priest, was the leader of the Enragés. Roux supported the common people and the Republic. He participated in peasant movements and endorsed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, to which he swore an oath on 16 January 1791. Roux claimed: "I am ready to give every last drop of my blood to a Revolution that has already altered the fate of the human race by making men equal among themselves as they are all for all eternity before God". [10] Roux saw violence as a key to the French Revolution’s success and in fact when Louis XVI was executed it was Roux who led him to the scaffold. [11]

Jean Varlet

Jean Varlet, another leader of the Enragés, played a leading role in the fall of the monarchy. When Louis XVI attempted to flee Paris, Varlet circulated petitions in the National Assembly and spoke against the king. On 10 August 1792, the Legislative Assembly suspended the king and called for the election of a National Convention. Afterwards, Varlet became a deputy in the new National Convention. Even as a member of this representative government, Varlet mistrusted representation and was in favor of direct universal suffrage which could bind representatives and recall elected legislators. He sought to prevent the wealthy from expanding their profits at the expense of the poor and called for the nationalization of all profits obtained through monopoly and hoarding. [12]

Théophile Leclerc

In 1790, Théophile Leclerc joined the first battalion of Morbihan volunteers and remained a member until February 1792. He gained recognition in Paris through a speech attacking Louis XVI to the Jacobins. After moving to Lyon, he joined the Central Club and married Pauline Léon, a revolutionary woman. He approved of radical violence like the other Enragés, calling for the execution of expelled Girondins after the 2 June insurrection. [13]

Claire Lacombe

In 1793, the actress Claire Lacombe, another individual associated with the Enragés, founded the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. This group was outraged by high costs of living, the lack of necessities and awful living conditions. Lacombe was known for violent rhetoric and action. On 26 May 1793, Lacombe nearly beat to death a Girondin woman, Théroigne de Méricourt, with a whip on the benches of the Convention. She may have killed her if Jean-Paul Marat had not intervened. [13]

Other groups

To the left of the Montagnards and Hébertists, the Enragés were fought against by Maximilien Robespierre and Jacques Hébert, both of whom implemented some of their proposals in order to appeal to the sans-culottes and undermine the Enragés influence. Their ideas were taken up and developed by Gracchus Babeuf and his associates.

Another group styling itself as Enragés emerged in France in 1968 among students at Nanterre University. Inspired by, and closely allied with, the Situationists, these Enragés emerged as one of the leading groups in the May 1968 French insurrection. [14]

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  1. 1 2 3 Jeremy D. Popkin (2015). A Short History of the French Revolution. Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. p. 68.
  2. Paul R. Hanson (2007). The A to Z of the French Revolution. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 120.
  3. R. B. Rose (1965). Enragés: Socialists of the French Revolution?. Sydney: Sydney University Press. p. 73.
  4. R. B. Rose (1965). Enragés: Socialists of the French Revolution?. Sydney: Sydney University Press. p. 41.
  5. R. B. Rose (1965). Enragés: Socialists of the French Revolution?. Sydney: Sydney University Press. p. 74.
  6. R. B. Rose (1965). Enragés: Socialists of the French Revolution?. Sydney: Sydney University Press. p. 75.
  7. 1 2 Jacques Roux (25 June 1793). "Manifesto of the Enragés". Translation by Mitchell Abidor. Marxist Internet Archive.
  8. 1 2 Mitchell Abidor; Henry Heller (1 January 2015). Jaurès, Jean (ed.). A Socialist History of the French Revolution. Pluto Press. pp. 140–168. ISBN   9780745335001. JSTOR   j.ctt183p2pt.15.
  9. Jacques Roux. "Manifesto of the Enragés by Jacques Roux 1793". Marxist Internet Archive. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  10. Denis Richet, "Enragés," in Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, ed. François Furet and Mona Ozouf (Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 338.
  11. Denis Richet (1989). ed. François Furet and Mona Ozouf. "Enragés". In Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Harvard University Press. p. 338.
  12. Denis Richet (1989). ed. François Furet and Mona Ozouf. "Enragés". In Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Harvard University Press. pp. 337–338.
  13. 1 2 Denis Richet (1989). ed. François Furet and Mona Ozouf. "Enragés". In Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Harvard University Press. p. 339.
  14. René Viénet (1992). Enragés and Situationists in the Occupation Movement, France, May '68. New York: Automedia.

Further reading