Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles

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Marie Jean Herault de Sechelles, portrait by Jean-Louis Laneuville Marie-Jean Herault de Sechelles, conventionnel by Jean-Louis Laneuville (Carnavalet P 2539) 02.jpg
Marie Jean Hérault de Séchelles, portrait by Jean-Louis Laneuville

Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles (20 September 1759 5 April 1794) was a French judge and politician who took part in the French Revolution.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.


Origins and early career

Marie-Jean Herault de Sechelles at age 4 (Francois-Hubert Drouais) Marie-Jean Herault de Sechelles by Francois Hubert Drouais.jpg
Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles at age 4 (François-Hubert Drouais)

Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles was born in Paris into a noble and well-known family. His grandfather was René Hérault, who had served as Lieutenant General of Police of Paris between 1725 and 1739. His great-grandfather was Jean Moreau de Séchelles (1690-1760), who had served as Controller-General of Finances between 1754 and 1756 and had given his name to the Seychelles archipelago. Jean Moreau de Séchelles's daughter, Hélène Moreau de Séchelles (1715-1798), was the second wife of René Hérault.

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, as well as 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 Zurich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

French nobility privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790

The French nobility was a privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790. The nobility was revived in 1805 with limited rights as a titled elite class from the First Empire to the fall of the July Monarchy in 1848, when all privileges were abolished for good. Hereditary titles, without privileges, continued to be granted until the Second Empire fell in 1870. They survive among their descendants as a social convention and as part of the legal name of the corresponding individuals.

René Hérault French police chief

René Hérault, Seigneur de Fontaine-l'Abbé et de Vaucresson, simply known as René Hérault, and sometimes as René Hérault de Vaucresson, was a French magistrate and administrator who served as Lieutenant General of Police of Paris from 1725 to 1739.

Most authors, however, consider that René Hérault was not the biological grandfather of Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles. His biological grandfather was most likely Louis Georges Érasme de Contades (1704-1795), Marshal of France, who had an affair with Hélène Moreau de Séchelles during her marriage to René Hérault. Hélène Moreau de Séchelles gave birth to a son in 1737, Jean-Baptiste Martin Hérault de Séchelles - the father of Marie-Jean, who died in 1759, at the Battle of Minden, where Contades was commanding the French army. Contades took care of Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles after the early death of his father. He had arranged to marry his illegitimate son Jean-Baptiste Martin Hérault de Séchelles to his wife's niece, so that he might present himself in society as the "uncle" of Marie-Jean.

Louis Georges Érasme de Contades Marshal of France

Louis Georges Érasme de Contades (1704–1795) was the 6th Marquis de Contades and Seigneur de Montgeoffroi. He was a Marshal of France and a major battlefield commander during the Seven Years' War. He notably commanded the French forces at the 1759 Battle of Minden.

Battle of Minden battle

The Battle of Minden—or Tho(r)nhausen—was a decisive engagement during the Seven Years' War, fought on 1 August 1759. An Anglo-German army under the overall command of Field Marshal Ferdinand of Brunswick defeated a French army commanded by Marshal of France, Marquis de Contades. Two years previously, the French had launched a successful invasion of Hanover and attempted to impose an unpopular treaty of peace upon the allied nations of Britain, Hanover and Prussia. After a Prussian victory at Rossbach, and under pressure from Frederick the Great and William Pitt, King George II disavowed the treaty. In 1758, the allies launched a counter-offensive against the French forces and drove them back across the Rhine.

Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles was also the first cousin of the famous Duchess of Polignac, the friend and confidant of Queen Marie Antoinette. The Duchess of Polignac, who would later be the object of deep revolutionary disapprobation, was the daughter of Jeanne Charlotte Hérault (1726-1753 or 1756), herself the daughter of René Hérault and his first wife. Finally, he was also the nephew of Claude-Henri Feydeau de Marville, Lieutenant General of Police of Paris between 1739 and 1747, who had married Marie-Jean's aunt - the second daughter of René Hérault and his first wife.

Marie Antoinette Last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution

Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She became Dauphine of France in May 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. On 10 May 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she assumed the title Queen of France and Navarre, which she held until September 1791, when she became Queen of the French as the French Revolution proceeded, a title that she held until 21 September 1792.

Hérault de Séchelles made his debut as a lawyer at the Châtelet of Paris, the city's civil and criminal court. At the age of twenty, he became King's Advocate (a position similar to Advocate General) at the Châtelet, in part due to the aid of the Duchess of Polignac. Associates of the Polignac family presented him to the queen, who pushed his appointment as Advocate General at the prestigious Parlement of Paris. [1]

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.

Grand Châtelet

The Grand Châtelet was a stronghold in Ancien Régime Paris, on the right bank of the Seine, on the site of what is now the Place du Châtelet; it contained a court and police headquarters and a number of prisons.

Parlement Ancien Régime justice court

A parlement, in the Ancien Régime of France, was a provincial appellate court. In 1789, France had 13 parlements, the most important of which was the Parlement of Paris. While the English word parliament derives from this French term, parlements were not legislative bodies. They consisted of a dozen or more appellate judges, or about 1,100 judges nationwide. They were the court of final appeal of the judicial system, and typically wielded much power over a wide range of subject matter, particularly taxation. Laws and edicts issued by the Crown were not official in their respective jurisdictions until the parlements gave their assent by publishing them. The members were aristocrats called nobles of the gown who had bought or inherited their offices, and were independent of the King.

Active freemason, he was a member of Les Neuf Soeurs lodge since its creation in 1776. [2]

His legal occupation did not prevent him from devoting himself to literature, and in 1785 he published an account of a visit he had made to the noted naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, the Comte de Buffon at Montbard: La visite à Buffon, ou Voyage à Montbard. He was also the author of a philosophical work published after his death, Théorie de l'ambition.

Despite his upbringing, Hérault became an early proponent of Revolutionary ideas, and took part in the storming of the Bastille in July 1789. In December 1790 he was appointed judge of the court of the 1st arrondissement in the département of Paris. [3] From the end of January to April 1791, Hérault was absent on a mission in Alsace, where he had been sent to restore order following a period of civil unrest and to enforce the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Here he received death-threats. [4] On his return he was appointed Commissaire du Roi in the Cour de cassation .

Legislative Assembly and initial missions

He was elected as a deputy for Paris to the Legislative Assembly in September 1792, [5] where he gravitated towards the extreme left. He also served as a member of several committees; during his time as a member of the diplomatic committee, in June 1793, he presented a memorable report demanding that the nation should be declared to be in danger.

During and after the 10 August 1792 insurrection, he worked alongside Georges Danton, one of the organizers and leading figures of this rising and, on 2 September, was appointed president of the Legislative Assembly.

In 1792, he was elected to the National Convention as deputy for the département of Seine-et-Oise, and was sent on a mission to organize the new département of Mont Blanc. He was thus absent during the trial of King Louis XVI, but he made it known that he approved of his execution.


On his return to Paris, Hérault was several times president of the Convention, notably on 2 June 1793, the occasion of the attack on the Girondins (when he unsuccessfully pleaded for the troops to retreat), [6] and on 10 August 1793, on which was celebrated the passing of the Acte constitutionnel (called "of The Mountain"); Hérault de Sechelles served, alongside Louis de Saint-Just, as one of the writers and redactors of the 1793 Constitution, which was fated never to be applied.

Hérault was a member of the Reign of Terror's Committee of Public Safety, to which he was elected on 13 June 1793. [7] He was chiefly concerned with diplomacy, and from October to December 1793 was employed on a diplomatic and military mission in Alsace. This mission made him an object of suspicion to the other members of the Committee, especially to Maximilien Robespierre, who as a deist and a follower of the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, resented Hérault and other followers of Denis Diderot's naturalism.[ citation needed ] Hérault, whose aristocratic background was also accounted a source of suspicion, was accused of collusion with foreign agents, amounting to treason by Bourdon de l'Oise on 16 December 1793. He responded by offering his resignation from the Committee of Public Safety, but this was refused. [8] However the following Spring brought further accusations against him of collusion with counter-revolutionaries, and he was also embroiled in the scandal around the dissolution of the East India Company. [9] He was tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal and condemned alongside Danton, François Joseph Westermann, Camille Desmoulins, and Pierre Philippeaux. They were guillotined on the same day: 5 April 1794 (16th Germinal in the year II). [10]

Fictionalized accounts

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  1. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.34
  2. Dictionnaire universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie, page 360 (Marc de Jode, Monique Cara and Jean-Marc Cara, ed. Larousse , 2011)
  3. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.188
  4. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.208
  5. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.297
  6. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.341
  7. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.344
  8. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.398
  9. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.409
  10. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.416

Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hérault de Séchelles, Marie Jean"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 333.In turn, it gives the following references:

Voyage a Montbard, published by F.A. Aulard (Paris, 1890).
F.A. Aulard, Les Orateurs de la Legislative el de la Convention, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1906).
J Claretie, Camille Desmoulins, Étude sur les Dantonistes (Paris, 1875).
Dr Robinet, Le Procés des Dantonistes (Paris, 1879).
"Hérault de Séchelles, sa premiere mission en Alsace" in the review La Revolution Française, tome 22.
Ernest Daudet, Le Roman d'un conventionnel. Hérault de Séchelles et les dames de Bellegarde (904).
Hérault de Séchelles, ed. E. Dard, Œuvres littéraires (Paris, 1907).