Claude François Chauveau-Lagarde

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Chauveau-Lagarde

Claude François Chauveau-Lagarde (Chartres 1756 – Paris 1841) came into the public spotlight in the early stages of the French Revolution. he was already a respected lawyer in Paris, when in 1789, when the Estates General were convoked, he published a hopeful Théorie des états généraux ou la France régénérée. Under the Revolution he continued to exercise his profession, now as défenseur officieux, a public defender. His name appears in the lists of civil trials in the collection of Aristide Douarche.[1] From these one sees that on 16 May 1793 he was the lawyer for general Francisco de Miranda before the revolutionary tribunal, while it still represented a spirit of good will towards the accused; thanks to his effective plea, his client was acquitted, a triumph for the accused and his advocate. However, Jean-Paul Marat denounced Chauveau-Lagarde as a liberator of the guilty. He was entrusted with the defense of Louis-Marie-Florent, duc du Châtelet, Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Madame Roland and Charlotte Corday, who had assassinated Marat. In her case, judgment had been rendered in advance, he was well aware. He limited himself to pleading in her defense "the exaltation of political fanaticism" that had placed the knife in her hand.

He distinguished himself by his moral courage under the Reign of Terror. He had to defend the moderate Girondins, in particular Jacques Pierre Brissot, his fellow countryman from Chartres, was two years older. He took on the defense of Marie Antoinette, which occasioned a zeal that attracted the suspicions of the Comité de sûreté générale; once sentence had been pronounced on the Queen, he was summoned to appear before the committee, accused of having defended the Queen all too well; he managed to justify his actions.

Madame Roland applied to him to prepare her defense, which she intended to present herself before her judges. He took on the defense of Madame Elisabeth, sister of the King, without being permitted to interview his client. He had also to defend the "virgins of Verdun" who inspired Victor Hugo's Ode,[2] the twenty-seven defendants from Tonnerre, and others.

Following the passage of the Draconian law of 22 prairial an II (10 June 1794), which suppressed the role of lawyers for the defense of those accused before the tribunals, he withdrew to his native city. There he was arrested, accused of demonstrating too much leniency towards counter-revolutionaries. His arrest warrant specified his appearance before the Tribunal in three days, but his detention, which lasted six weeks, during which he remained very discreet, saved him from the guillotine. After 9 Thermidor an II (27 July 1794) he was set at liberty.

His cosectionnaires elected him president of the section ("l'Unité"), the most royalist neighborhood of the capital. Compromised by the royalist insurrection of 13 vendémiaire an IV (5 October 1795), he was condemned to death for contumacy. He remained in hiding, awaiting the return of calm sufficiently long that, when he did finally appear, his sentence was annulled.

With the return of public order under the Directory he resumed his profession. In 1797 he was charged with the defense of Abbé Charles Brottier,[3] for whom he won acquittal, as he did for several royalists accused of conspiracy. He obtained acquittals for the abductors of Clément Ris, for Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, for General Dupont, with his customary courage and eloquence.

After the Restoration, he became avocat au Conseil du roi and president of the Conseil de l’ordre des avocats and was named concillor of the Court of Cassation (1828)

He is commemorated in the rue Chaveau-Lagarde [sic], Paris. He is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Aristide Douarche, Les Tribunaux civils pendant la Révolution
  2. ^ Hugo, "Les Vierges de Verdun
  3. ^ The Abbé Brottier was a royalist who had founded the Institut philanthropique in August 1796 "to undermine the Directory and prepare a Bourbon restoration, but the organization had hardly been completed when its main leader and several others were arrested. "The Institut proceeded its counterrevolutionary activities for some years, particularly in the south of France, but in spite of support by English agents it played only a minor role in local insurrections." (Matthys de Jongh, descriptive notes for Débats du procès instruit par le Conseil de Guerre permanent de la XVIIe Division militaire, séant à l'ancienne Maison commune de Paris, contre les prévenus Brottier, Berthelot-La Villeurnoy, Dunan, Poly et autres. 1797; on-line text)

References[edit]

  • Jean Tulard, Jean-François Fayard, Alfred Fierro, Histoire et dictionnaire de la Révolution française 1789-1799, Éditions Robert Laffont, collection Bouquins, Paris, 1987. ISBN 2-7028-2076-X