Pierre Gaspard Chaumette

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Pierre Gaspard Chaumette
Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette.jpg
Pierre Gaspard Chaumette
Born24 May 1763
Died13 April 1794 (1794-04-14) (aged 30)
NationalityFrench
Alma mater University of Paris
Scientific career
Fields Botany
Politics

Pierre Gaspard Chaumette (24 May 1763 – 13 April 1794) was a French politician of the Revolutionary period who served as the president of the Paris Commune and played a leading role in the establishment of the Reign of Terror. He was one of the ultra-radical enragés of the revolution, an ardent critic of Christianity who was one of the leaders of the dechristianization of France. His radical positions resulted in his alienation from Maximilien Robespierre, and he was arrested on charges of being a counterrevolutionary and executed.

French Revolution social and political revolution in France and its colonies occurring from 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.

Paris Commune revolutionary city council of Paris 1871

The Paris Commune was a radical socialist and revolutionary government that ruled Paris from 18 March to 28 May 1871. The Franco-Prussian War had led to the capture of Emperor Napoleon III in September 1870, the collapse of the Second French Empire, and the beginning of the Third Republic. Because Paris was under siege for four months, the Third Republic moved its capital to Tours. A hotbed of working-class radicalism, Paris was primarily defended during this time by the often politicised and radical troops of the National Guard rather than regular Army troops. Paris surrendered to the Prussians on 28 January 1871, and in February Adolphe Thiers, the new chief executive of the French national government, signed an armistice with Prussia that disarmed the Army but not the National Guard.

Reign of Terror period during the french revolution

The Reign of Terror, or The Terror, refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established.

Contents

Biography

Early activities

Chaumette was born in Nevers, France, on 24 May 1763, into a family of shoemakers who wanted him to enter the Church. However he did not have a vocation and instead sought his fortune as a cabin boy. After only reaching the rank of helmsman, he returned to Nevers to study his main interests, botany and science. [1] He also studied surgery and made a long voyage in the company of an English doctor, serving as his secretary. He then became surgeon to the Brothers of Charity at Moulins. [2] Chaumette studied medicine at the University of Paris in 1790, but gave up his career in medicine at the start of the Revolution. Chaumette began his political career as member of the Jacobin Club editing the progressive Revolutions de Paris journal from 1790. [3] His oratory skills proved him a valuable spokesperson of the Cordelier Club, and more importantly, the sans-culotte movement in the Parisian neighbourhood Sections. In August 1792 Chaumette became the Chief Procurator of the Commune of Paris; as member of the Paris Commune during the insurrection of 10 August 1792, he was delegated to visit the prisons, with full power to arrest suspects. On 31 October 1792 he was elected President of the Commune and was re-elected in the Municipal on 2 December of that same year.

Nevers Prefecture and commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Nevers is the prefecture of the Nièvre department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in central France. It was the principal city of the former province of Nivernais. It is 260 km (160 mi) south-southeast of Paris.

Botany science of plant life

Botany, also called plant science(s), plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field. The term "botany" comes from the Ancient Greek word βοτάνη (botanē) meaning "pasture", "grass", or "fodder"; βοτάνη is in turn derived from βόσκειν (boskein), "to feed" or "to graze". Traditionally, botany has also included the study of fungi and algae by mycologists and phycologists respectively, with the study of these three groups of organisms remaining within the sphere of interest of the International Botanical Congress. Nowadays, botanists study approximately 410,000 species of land plants of which some 391,000 species are vascular plants, and approximately 20,000 are bryophytes.

Medicine The science and practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of physical and mental illnesses

Medicine is the science and practice of establishing the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices, biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.

Presidency of the Commune

His conduct, oratorical talent, and the fact that his private life was considered beyond reproach, all made him influential, and he was elected president of the Commune, defending the municipality at the bar of the National Convention on 31 October 1792. Re-elected in the municipal elections of 2 December 1792, he was soon given the functions of procureur of the Commune, and contributed with success to the enrollments of volunteers in the army by his appeals to the population of Paris. Chaumette held strong anti-monarchy views. He led a deputation from the Commune and argued before the National Convention that failing to punish Louis XVI for his crimes was causing high prices and the fall of the assignat. [4] Further, Chaumette held a strong opinion about the fate of Louis XVI after his fall. He was greatly outspoken in his demand for the king's blood. Chaumette's thesis was that as long as Louis XVI went unpunished prices would remain high, and shortages and the profiteering that created them, which he assumed to be the work of the royalists, would go unchecked. [5]

Paris Commune (French Revolution) government during French Revolution

The Paris Commune during the French Revolution was the government of Paris from 1792 until 1795. Established in the Hôtel de Ville just after the storming of the Bastille, it consisted of 144 delegates elected by the 48 divisions of the city. The Paris Commune became insurrectionary in the summer of 1792, essentially refusing to take orders from the central French government. It took charge of routine civic functions but is best known for mobilizing extreme views and actions among the people and for its campaign to dechristianize the churches and the people. It lost much power in 1794 and was replaced in 1795.

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.

Syndic officer of government with varying powers

Syndic is a term applied in certain countries to an officer of government with varying powers, and secondly to a representative or delegate of a university, institution or other corporation, entrusted with special functions or powers.

Chaumette was also a leading and vocal opponent of the Girondists. He was one of the instigators of the attacks of 31 May and of 2 June 1793 on the Girondists. Chaumette and Jacques Hébert acted as prosecutors on behalf of the Tribunal which tried the Girondists in October 1793. [6]

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. He was a leader of the French Revolution and had thousands of followers as the Hébertists ; he himself is sometimes called Père Duchesne, after his newspaper.

Chaumette made a leading contribution to establishing the Reign of Terror. In early September 1793 there was fear and unrest in Paris over prices, food shortages, war and fears of a royalist betrayal. On 4 September Hebert appealed to the sections to join the Commune in petitioning the National Convention with radical demands. [7] The next day, led by Chaumette and the mayor of Paris, Pache, crowds of citizens filled the Convention. [8] Chaumette stood up on a table to declare that 'we now have open war between the rich and the poor' and urged the immediate mobilisation of the revolutionary army to go into the countryside, seize food supplies from hoarders and exact punishments on them. [9] Robespierre was presiding over the Convention's sessions that day, and Chaumette's demands, together with the shock of the recent betrayal of Toulon to the British, prompted the Convention to decree that 'Terror will be the order of the day'. [10]

Jean-Nicolas Pache French politician

Jean-Nicolas Pache was a French politician who served as Mayor of Paris from 1793 to 1794.

Role in the dechristianization of France

Chaumette is considered one of the ultra-radical enragés of the French Revolution. He demanded the formation of a Revolutionary Army which was to "force avarice and greed to yield up the riches of the earth" in order to redistribute wealth, and feed troops and the urban populations. [11] He is associated much more with his views on the de-Christianization movement, however. Chaumette was an ardent critic of Christianity, which he charged with consisting of "ridiculous ideas" [12] that "have been very helpful to [legitimize] despotism." [13] In his views, he was heavily influenced by atheist and materialist writers Paul d'Holbach, Denis Diderot and Jean Meslier. Chaumette saw religion as a relic of superstitious eras that did not reflect the intellectual achievements of the Age of Enlightenment. Indeed, for Chaumette "church and counterrevolution were one and the same." [14] Thus, he proceeded to pressure several priests and bishops into abjuring their positions. Chaumette organized a Festival of Reason on 10 November 1793, which boasted a Goddess of Reason, portrayed by an actress, on an elevated platform in the Notre Dame Cathedral. [15] Chaumette was so passionately involved in the de-Christianization process that in December 1792 he even publicly changed his name from Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette to Anaxagoras Chaumette. [16] He stated his reason for changing his name that, "I was formerly called Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette because my god-father believed in the saints. Since the revolution I have taken the name of a saint who was hanged for his republican principles." [17] It has been suggested that his criticism was also influenced by the Church's stance on homosexual relations. [18]

The Enraged Ones 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. 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.

French Revolutionary Army

The French Revolutionary Army was the French force that fought the French Revolutionary Wars from 1792 to 1802. These armies were characterised by their revolutionary fervour, their poor equipment and their great numbers. Although they experienced early disastrous defeats, the revolutionary armies successfully expelled foreign forces from French soil and then overran many neighboring countries, establishing client republics. Leading generals included Jourdan, Bonaparte, Masséna and Moreau.

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

Downfall

Chaumette's ultra-radical ideas on the economy, society and religion set him at odds with Robespierre and the powerful circle around him and official opinion began to turn against him and the like-minded Hébertists. In September 1793, Robespierre made a speech denouncing dechristianisation as aristocratic and immoral. [19] Fabre d'Églantine, himself under suspicion, produced a report for the Committee of Public Safety, alleging Chaumette's involvement in an anti-government plot, revealed by Chabot, although Chabot had never named Chaumette himself. [20]

In the early spring of 1794, Chaumette increasingly became target of allegations that he was a counterrevolutionary. Hébert and his associates planned an armed uprising to overthrow Robespierre, but Chaumette, along with Hanriot, refused to take part. [21] When the Hébertists were arrested on 4 March, Chaumette was originally spared, but on 13 March he too was arrested. [22] The other Hébertists were executed on 24 March 1794 but Chaumette was held in prison until found guilty of taking part in the prison plot at Luxembourg Palace along with an unlikely group of co-conspirators including Lucile Desmoulins, wife of the recently executed Camille Desmoulins, Françoise Hebert, wife of the recently executed Hébert, Gobel, former Bishop of Paris, Arthur Dillon and an assortment of other prisoners of various types. [23] All of the alleged conspirators were sentenced to death on the morning of 13 April and guillotined that same afternoon.

Radical Philosophy

Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette's legacy mainly consists of his ultra-radical philosophies that were regarded as excessive even by his contemporary colleagues. [24] Especially his convictions on the uselessness of religion were frowned upon by deist Robespierre and most other "moderate" Montagnards and they ultimately led to his execution.

Reviewing Saint-Martin

In 1790 Chaumette reviewed the work of Saint-Martin, a French Catholic philosopher wishing for a theocratic society in which the most devout people would commission and guide the rest of the population. The review provides a substantiated outline of Chaumette's philosophies. He criticizes Saint-Martin's ideal due to its similarity to France's feudal order before the Revolution in which the rule of the monarch was legitimized by the Divine right of kings. The review soon develops into a much broader affront towards religion, though. Chaumette calls all Christians "enemies of reason", [25] and calls their ideas "ridiculous." [26] He wonders "over whom to get more embarrassed; him who believes he can deceive humans in the eighteenth century with such farces or him who has the weakness to let himself be deceived." [27] He moves on to criticize the very notion of free will as construct that authorizes Christianity to proscribe certain "unmoral" actions.

His criticism is reminiscent of Friedrich Nietzsche who would denounce Christianity on many of the same grounds eighty years later. Just like Nietzsche, Chaumette emphasizes a greater reliance on our instincts and a greater embracing of the apparent world, instead of Christianity's concern with the afterlife. In his philosophy, he is rather critical of human beings stating that "everyone knows that humans are nothing more than what education makes of them; [...and thus] if one wants them just, one must furnish them with notions of fairness, not ideas from seventh heaven [...] because the sources of all of human's grief are ignorance and superstition.". [28]

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References

  1. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman, 1989 p.31
  2. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman, 1989 p.31
  3. Jervis, p.230,
  4. Citizens, Simon Schama, Penguin 1989 p.652
  5. Jordan, p.69
  6. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.379
  7. Citizens, Simon Schama, Penguin 1989 p.758
  8. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.365
  9. Citizens, Simon Schama, Penguin 1989 p.758
  10. Citizens, Simon Schama, Penguin 1989 p.758
  11. Lytle, p.19
  12. Chaumette, p.6
  13. Chaumette, p.101
  14. Jordan, p.70
  15. Jervis, pp.238–9
  16. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.311
  17. Jones, p.471
  18. Guérin, Daniel (1983). Homosexualité et révolution (in French). Paris: Le vent du ch'min.
  19. The Terror, David Andress, Little, Brown 2005 p.253
  20. The Terror, David Andress, Little, Brown 2005 p.254
  21. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.409
  22. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.410
  23. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989, p.416-417
  24. Jordan, p.70
  25. Chaumette, p.17
  26. Chaumette, p.6
  27. Chaumette, p.12
  28. Chaumette, p.85

Bibliography