Last updated

Founder Jacques Hébert
Founded1791;228 years ago (1791)
Dissolved1794;225 years ago (1794)
Headquarters Paris
Newspaper Le Père Duchesne
Ideology Jacobinism
Left-wing populism
Political position Far-left
National affiliation Cordeliers
Colours     Green

The Hébertists (French : Hébertistes), or Exaggerators (French : Exagérés) were a radical revolutionary political group associated with the populist journalist Jacques Hébert, a member of the Cordeliers club. They came to power during the Reign of Terror and played a significant role in the French Revolution.

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.

Jacques Hébert 1757-1794 French journalist and politician

Jacques René Hébert was a French journalist and the founder and editor of the extreme radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne during the French Revolution.

Cordeliers Political group during the French Revolution (1790-1794)

The Society of the Friends of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, mainly known as Cordeliers Club, was a populist club during the French Revolution from 1790 to 1794, when the Reign of Terror ended and the Thermidorian Reaction began.


The Hébertists were ardent supporters of the dechristianization of France and of extreme measures in service of the Terror, including the Law of Suspects enacted in 1793. They favoured the direct intervention of the state in economic matters in order to ensure the adequate supply of commodities, advocating the national requisition of wine and grain. [1]

The Law of Suspects was a decree passed by the French National Convention on 17 September 1793, during the French Revolution. Some historians consider this decree the start of 'the Terror' over France; they argue that the decree marked a significant weakening of individual freedoms that led to "revolutionary paranoia" that swept the nation.

The leaders went to the guillotine on 24 March 1794.

Guillotine Apparatus designed for carrying out executions by beheading

A guillotine was an apparatus designed for efficiently carrying out executions by beheading. The device consists of a tall, upright frame in which a weighted and angled blade is raised to the top and suspended. The condemned person is secured with stocks at the bottom of the frame, positioning the neck directly below the blade. The blade is then released, to quickly fall and forcefully decapitate the victim with a single, clean pass so that the head falls into a basket below.

Rise to popularity

The rise in power of the Hébertists can be largely attributed to the popularity of Hébert's newspaper, Le Père Duchesne . This newspaper, which purported to present the frank opinions of Père Duchesne, a fictional working-class furnace-maker, had a large following amongst the sans-culottes. The government-funded distribution of Le Père Duchesne to the French armies, a policy arranged by the Hébertist Minister of War Jean Baptiste Noël Bouchotte in 1793, widened support and sympathy for Hébertist ideas.

<i>Le Père Duchesne</i> periodical literature

Le Père Duchesne was an extreme radical newspaper during the French Revolution, edited by Jacques Hébert, who published 385 issues from September 1790 until eleven days before his death by guillotine, which took place on March 24, 1794.

<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.

Jean Baptiste Noël Bouchotte was a minister in the French government. He was born in Metz.

On 24 May 1793, the newly appointed Commission of Twelve ordered the arrest of Hébert, who had been using Le Père Duchesne to incite violence against members of the Girondin faction. The tremendous public outcry and civil unrest which ensued rapidly resulted in Hébert's release. However, rioting continued, culminating in a series of insurrections. On 31 May 1793, a large crowd of sans-culotte agitators surrounded the National Convention in an attempt to force its accession to their demands, namely the dissolution of the Commission of Twelve, the arrest of a list of Girondin deputies, a tax on the rich and the restriction of suffrage to sans-culottes. [2] The Commission was abolished, but on 2 June 1793 the crowds—now supported by National Guard forces headed by Hébertist and newly appointed Commandant-General François Hanriot—returned. Hanriot threatened to set fire to the Convention if the offending Girondin deputies were not expelled. Ultimately, the arrest of twenty-nine Girondins was decreed, marking the end of the Girondin faction's political power. [3]

During the French Revolution, the Extraordinary Commission of Twelve was a commission of the French National Convention charged with finding and trying conspirators. It was known for short as the Commission of Twelve and its formation led to the revolt of 2 June 1793, the fall of the Girondins and the start of the Reign of Terror.

National Convention Single-chamber assembly in France from 21 September 1792 to 26 October 1795

The National Convention was the first government of the French Revolution, following the two-year National Constituent Assembly and the one-year Legislative Assembly. Created after the great insurrection of 10 August 1792, it was the first French government organized as a republic, abandoning the monarchy altogether. The Convention sat as a single-chamber assembly from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795.

Following the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat by a Girondin sympathizer in July 1793, Hébert positioned himself as Marat's natural successor in the affections of those who had shared the dead man's ultra-revolutionary beliefs. [4] The Hébertists' popularity grew. Their evident and increasingly destabilizing influence was disturbing to many less extreme revolutionary politicians, including leading Montagnard figures such as Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre—the latter of whom especially disapproved of the Hébertists' atheism. [4]

Jean-Paul Marat politician and journalist during the French Revolution

Jean-Paul Marat was a French political theorist, physician, and scientist. He was a journalist and politician during the French Revolution. He was a vigorous defender of the sans-culottes and seen as a radical voice. He published his views in pamphlets, placards and newspapers. His periodical L'Ami du peuple made him an unofficial link with the radical Jacobin group that came to power after June 1793.

Georges Danton French revolutionary

Georges Jacques Danton was a leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution, in particular as the first president of the Committee of Public Safety. Danton's role in the onset of the Revolution has been disputed; many historians describe him as "the chief force in the overthrow of the French monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic".

Maximilien Robespierre French revolutionary lawyer and politician

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and politician, as well as one of the best known and most influential figures associated with the French Revolution. As a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club, he campaigned for universal manhood suffrage, and the abolition of both celibacy for the clergy and of slavery. Robespierre was an outspoken advocate for the citizens without a voice, for their unrestricted admission to the National Guard, to public offices, and for the right to carry arms in self-defence. Robespierre played an important part in the agitation which brought about the fall of the French monarchy in August 1792 and the summoning of a National Convention.

Accusations and denouncement

Over the course of October 1793, a number of accusations were leveled against prominent Hébertists by Fabre d'Églantine, a friend and supporter of Danton. Fabre claimed to have discovered a foreign plot in which Stanislas-Marie Maillard and Anacharsis Cloots, among others, were implicated as agents. This succeeded in casting suspicion on the Hébertist faction. However, Fabre himself was rapidly revealed to have been acting in part as part of an elaborate attempt to conceal his own involvement in a scandal surrounding the liquidation of the French East India Company and his credibility was thereby diminished.

In December 1793, the journalist Camille Desmoulins—whose political opinions had long been aligned with those of Danton and Robespierre—began publishing a journal, Le Vieux Cordelier , aimed in part at the discrediting of the Hébertist faction. The journal's title alluded to the fact that the Cordeliers Club, formerly a moderate revolutionary society dominated by the policies of Danton, had become overrun by sans-culotte Hébertists and their sympathizers. Desmoulins attacked Hébert for bringing the French Republic into disrepute through his writings, claiming that "when the tyrants of Europe wish[ed] to vilify the Republic, to make their slaves believe that France is covered with the darkness of barbarism, that Paris [...] is peopled with Vandals", they reprinted Le Père Duchesne. [5] He also mocked Hébert for having pretended to be a "man of the people" and a representative of the sans-culottes—when in fact he had profited handsomely from the contracts his follower Bouchotte had secured to distribute Le Père Duchesne to the armies. [6] In turn, Hébert accused Desmoulins of hypocrisy, pointing out that his current opposition to violence and extremism (in addition to attacking ultra-revolutionary excesses, Desmoulins had called for an end to the Terror) stood in sharp contrast to his support for such tactics in a 1789 pamphlet, Discours de la lanterne aux Parisiens, which had advocated the execution of those opposed to revolution. The vitriolic exchange continued throughout the winter of 1793–1794, ultimately contributing to the downfall of both Desmoulins and Hébert.

Fall from power

Order of execution for the Hebertists published by the Revolutionary Tribunal and signed by the hand of Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville HebertistsOrderExecution.jpg
Order of execution for the Hébertists published by the Revolutionary Tribunal and signed by the hand of Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville

Following the February 1794 recall of Hébertist deputy Jean-Baptiste Carrier from Nantes, where he had been engaged in mass executions to suppress the Vendéen revolts, the Hébertists attempted to stage a popular revolt, hoping to mimic that which had led to the downfall of the Girondins. On 4 March 1794, Carrier and Hébert veiled the bust of Liberty at the Cordeliers Club, declaring according to ritual a state of insurrection. They had hoped to demand that the National Convention expel Robespierre and his Montagnard supporters. [7] However, the city of Paris did not rise and the Paris Commune failed to provide military support for the coup. The Hébertists were denounced by Louis Antoine de Saint-Just and Robespierre and the leaders of the faction were arrested on 13 March 1794. [7] Twenty of them, including Chaumette, Cloots, Antoine-François Momoro and Hébert, were tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal and convicted. On 24 March 1794, they went to the guillotine.

Notable Hébertists

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  1. Schama, 806
  2. Furet, 127.
  3. Furet, 128.
  4. 1 2 Furet, 141.
  5. Claretie, 271.
  6. Schama, 811.
  7. 1 2 Scurr, 306.

Further reading