This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (July 2010)
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Payan was from a noble family in the Dauphiné, descended from the count palatines, which had held important army and magistrate posts. His father was the squire François de Payan and so Claude-François naturally joined an artillery regiment before the Revolution. On the Revolution he was highly enthused by the new ideas and fully subscribed to them. His elder brother Joseph-François de Payan was also a revolutionary.