Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve

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Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve
Jerome Petion de Villeneuve.jpg
Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve
2nd Mayor of Paris
In office
18 November 1791 15 October 1792
Preceded by Jean Sylvain Bailly
Succeeded by Philibert Borie (temporary mayor)
Personal details
Born(1756-01-03)3 January 1756
Chartres, Eure-et-Loir, France
Died18 June 1794(1794-06-18) (aged 38)
Saint-Magne-de-Castillon, near Saint-Émilion, Gironde, France
Cause of deathsuicide
Political party Girondist
OccupationWriter, politician

Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve (3 January 1756 in Chartres, France – 18 [?] June 1794 in Saint-Magne-de-Castillon (near Saint-Émilion)) was a French writer and politician who served as the second mayor of Paris, from 1791 to 1792.

Chartres Prefecture and commune in Centre-Val de Loire, France

Chartres is a commune and capital of the Eure-et-Loir department in France. It is located about 90 km (56 mi) southwest of Paris. Chartres is famous world-wide for its cathedral. Mostly constructed between 1193 and 1250, this Gothic cathedral is in an exceptional state of preservation. The majority of the original stained glass windows survive intact, while the architecture has seen only minor changes since the early 13th century. Much of the old town, including the library associated with the School of Chartres, was destroyed by bombs in 1944.

Saint-Magne-de-Castillon Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Saint-Magne-de-Castillon is a commune in the Gironde department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France.

Saint-Émilion Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Saint-Émilion is a commune in the Gironde department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in south-western France.


Early Life and Work

Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve was the son of a procureur at Chartres. Though it is known that he was trained as a lawyer, very few specifics are known about Petion's early life, as he was virtually unknown prior to the French Revolution. [1] He became a lawyer in 1778, and at once began to try to make a name in literature. His first printed work was an essay, Sur les moyens de prévenir l'infanticide, which failed to gain the prize for which it was composed, but pleased Brissot so much that he printed it in vol. vii. of his Bibliothèque philosophique des législateurs.

Pétion's next works, Les Lois civiles, and Essais sur le mariage, in which he advocated the marriage of priests, confirmed his position as a bold reformer. He also attacked long-held Ancien Régime traditions such as primogeniture, accusing it of dividing the countryside into "proletarians and colossal properties." [2] Later works penned by Pétion include his account of Haiti entitled "Reflexions sur la noir et denonciation d'un crime affreux commis a Saint-Domingue" (1790) [3] and "Avis aux francois" in which he chides France for its corruption. [4]

Primogeniture is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn legitimate son to inherit his parent's entire or main estate, in preference to shared inheritance among all or some children, a child other than the eldest male, a daughter, illegitimate child or a collateral relative. In some cases the estate may instead be the inheritance of the firstborn child or occasionally the firstborn daughter. The descendant of a deceased elder sibling inherits before a living younger sibling by right of substitution for the deceased heir. In the absence of any children, brothers succeed, individually, to the inheritance by seniority of age. Among siblings, sons usually inherit before daughters. In the absence of male descendants in the male-line, there are variations of primogeniture which allocate the inheritance to a daughter or a brother or, in the absence of either, to another collateral relative, in a specified order.

Saint-Domingue French colony on the isle of Hispaniola

Saint-Domingue was a French colony on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola from 1659 to 1804, in what is now Haiti.

Jerome Petion de Villeneuve, by Jean Urbain Guerin Jerome Petion de Villeneuve.jpg
Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve, by Jean Urbain Guerin

When the elections to the Estates-General took place in 1789 he was elected a deputy to the Tiers Etat for Chartres. Both in the assembly of the Tiers Etat and in the Constituent Assembly Pétion showed himself a radical leader. Although Petion was overshadowed in the Assembly by such orators as Mirabeau and Barnave, his close relationship with Girondin leader Brissot provided him with helpful advice on political conduct. [5] He supported Mirabeau on 23 June, attacked the queen on 5 October, and was elected president on 4 December 1790. On 15 June 1791 he was elected president of the criminal tribunal of Paris. On 21 June 1791 he was chosen one of three commissioners appointed to bring back the king from Varennes, and he has left an account of the journey. After the last meeting of the assembly on 30 September 1791 Robespierre and Pétion were made the popular heroes and were crowned by the populace with civic crowns.

National Constituent Assembly (France) former political body formed from the National Assembly on 9 July 1789 during the first stages of the French Revolution

The National Constituent Assembly was formed from the National Assembly on 9 July 1789 during the first stages of the French Revolution. It dissolved on 30 September 1791 and was succeeded by the Legislative Assembly.

Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau French writer, orator and statesman

Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Count of Mirabeau was a leader of the early stages of the French Revolution. A noble, he was involved in numerous scandals before the start of the Revolution in 1789 that had left his reputation in ruins. Nonetheless, he rose to the top of the French political hierarchy in the years 1789–1791 and acquired the reputation of a voice of the people. A successful orator, he was the leader of the moderate position among revolutionaries by favoring a constitutional monarchy built on the model of Great Britain. When he died he was a great national hero, even though support for his moderate position was slipping away. The later discovery that he was in the pay of King Louis XVI and the Austrian enemies of France beginning in 1790 caused his posthumous disgrace. Historians are deeply split on whether he was a great leader who almost saved the nation from the Terror, a venal demagogue lacking political or moral values, or a traitor in the pay of the enemy.

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, the Jacobin Club and National Convention, 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 petition. He campaigned for universal manhood suffrage, abolition of celibacy, religious tolerance and the abolition of slavery in the French colonies. Robespierre played an important role after the Storming of the Tuileries, which led to the establishment of the First French Republic on 22 September 1792.

Mayor of Paris

By late 1791, administrative control of Paris was dominated by the Jacobins and mayor Jean-Sylvain Bailly had resigned due to constant political attacks from the left. [6] Pétion received a still further proof of the affection of the Parisians for him on 16 November 1791, when he was elected second mayor of Paris in succession to Bailly in a contest against Lafayette. (Only 10% of eligible citizens cast a vote, and Pétion won 60% of votes cast). [7] In his mayoralty he exhibited clearly his republican tendency and his hatred of the old monarchy, especially on 20 June 1792, when he allowed the mob to overrun the Tuileries and insult the royal family. For neglecting to protect the Tuileries he was suspended from his functions by the Directory of the Seine département , but the leaders of the Legislative Assembly felt that Pétion's cause was theirs, and rescinded the suspension on 13 July. [8] On 4 August, at the head of the municipality of Paris, Pétion demanded the deposition of the king. [9] Following news of the Duke of Brunswick's Prussian army reaching the fortress of Verdun near Paris during the late summer of 1792, fear encouraged frenzied Parisian mobs to target prisoners, royalist sympathizers, and Catholic priests in a series of acts of violence that would come to be known as the September Massacres. [10]

Mayor (France) mayor in France

In France, a mayor is chairperson of the municipal council, which organizes the work and deliberates on municipal matters. The mayor also has significant powers and his or her own responsibilities, such as the responsibility for the activities of municipal police and for the management of municipal staff.

Jean Sylvain Bailly French astronomer, mathematician, freemason, and political leader

Jean Sylvain Bailly was a French astronomer, mathematician, freemason, and political leader of the early part of the French Revolution. He presided over the Tennis Court Oath, served as the mayor of Paris from 1789 to 1791, and was ultimately guillotined during the Reign of Terror.

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette French general and politician.

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, known in the United States simply as Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, commanding American troops in several battles, including the Siege of Yorktown. After returning to France, he was a key figure in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830.

Convention, Flight and Death

Pétion was elected to the Convention for Eure-et-Loir and became its first president. After his election he stood down as Mayor of Paris and Nicolas Chambon de Montaux was elected to replace him. [11] LP Manuel proposed that the president of the Assembly should have the same authority as the president of the United States; his proposition was at once rejected, but Pétion got the nickname of "Roi Pétion," which contributed to his fall. With disagreements over such items as the necessity of the September Massacres, the Convention was a scene of large-scale political infighting between different factions. [12] The Girondins represented the moderate Right in the Convention while their more radical opponents, the Montagnards, represented the Left and were distinguished by their preference for occupying the higher rows of benches in the Convention. [13] His jealousy of Robespierre allied him to the Girondin party, with which he voted for the king's death and for the appeal to the people. He participated to the Constitution Committee that drafted the Girondin constitutional project. He was elected in March 1793 to the first Committee of Public Safety; and he attacked Robespierre, who had accused him of having known and having kept secret Dumouriez's project of treason.

Eure-et-Loir Department of France

Eure-et-Loir is a French department, named after the Eure and Loir rivers.

Nicolas Chambon was a French politician who served as Mayor of Paris from 1792 to 1793.

Louis Pierre Manuel French historian and writer

Louis Pierre Manuel was a French writer and political figure of the Revolution.

Pétion's name was among those of the twenty-two Girondin deputies proscribed on 2 June 1793 (see Insurrection of 31 May – 2 June 1793). Pétion was one of those who escaped to Caen and raised the standard of provincial insurrection against the Convention; and, when the Norman rising failed, he fled with Marguerite-Élie Guadet, François Nicolas Leonard Buzot, Charles Jean Marie Barbaroux, Jean-Baptiste Salle  [ fr ] and Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvrai to the Gironde, where they were sheltered by a wigmaker of Saint Emilion. At last, a month before Robespierre's fall in June 1794, the escaped deputies felt themselves no longer safe, and deserted their asylum; Louvet found his way to Paris, Salle and Guadet to Bordeaux, where they were soon taken; Barbaroux was guillotined after a botched suicide attempt; and the bodies of Pétion and Buzot, who had killed themselves, were found in a field, half eaten by wolves. [14]

See Mémoires inédits du Pétion et mémoires de Buzot et de Barbaroux, accompagnés de notes inédites de Buzot et de nombreux documents inédits sur Barbaroux, Buzot, Brissot, etc., précédés d'une introduction par C. A. Dauban (Paris, 1866); Œuvres du Pétion (3 vols., 1792); FA Aulard, Les Orateurs de la Constituante (Paris, 1882).


  1. John Adolphus, Biographical Memoirs of the French Revolution (T. Cadell, jun. and W. Davies, 1799), 328.
  2. John Markoff, "Peasants Help Destroy an Old Regime and Defy a New One: Some Lessons from (and for) the Study of Social Movements,” The American Journal of Sociology 102, 4 (Jan 1997): 1135.
  3. Glenn O. Phillips, "The Caribbean Collection at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University," Latin American Research Review 15, 2 (1980), 168.
  4. David A. Bell, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being French: Law, Republicanism and National Identity at the End of the Old Regime,” The American Historical Review 106, 4 (Oct 2001), 1231.
  5. Adolphus, 330.
  6. David Andress, The Terror (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), 61.
  7. Chronicle of the French Revolution,Longman Group 1989 p.245
  8. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman Group 1989 p.271
  9. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman Group 1989 p.276
  10. Andress, 96.
  11. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman Group 1989 p.305
  12. Andress, 116.
  13. Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984, 2004), 129.
  14. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman Group 1989 p.427

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