Jean-Marie Claude Alexandre Goujon

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Jean Marie Claude Alexandre Goujon (13 April 1766, Bourg-en-Bresse – 17 June 1795, Paris)[1] was a politician of the French Revolution. He was a member of the National Convention from 1793-95, was sentenced to death after the Revolt of 1 Prairial Year III and committed suicide before he could be executed.

Early life[edit]

His grandfather, Claude Goujon, was director of a tax farm (les droits réunis) in Dijon, and his father, Claude Alexandre Goujon, was a tax farmer from Bourg-en-Bresse. On 9 February 1762, Claude Alexandre married Joan Margaret Nicole Ricard, daughter of Joseph Ricard, a barrister, and First Secretary of the Stewardship of Burgundy (born 1745). In 1774 the family moved to Provins.

The young Jean-Marie Goujon abandoned his studies after his father encountered financial difficulties, going first to Dieppe and then Saint-Malo to join the Navy. Having enlisted at the age of twelve as a seaman aboard the Diadême, he was on board the Saint-Esprit at the Battle of Ushant (1778) against the English fleet.[2] The next day he wrote his father a letter that was read aloud in the garden of the Palais Royal as a victory bulletin.[1]

After two years working for a merchant in Saint-Malo, he secured a job as sub-inspector of artillery crews in Morlaix, before being employed in the offices of the navy first at Brest, then in Saint-Malo. In 1783, seventeen years old, he moved to Mauritius, where his uncle Ricard, future mayor of Port-Louis, had a trading house. He came back in France the following year. In 1786, he became an attorney's clerk in Paris, where he befriended another young clerk, Pierre-François Tissot.[2] In May 1790 he joined his parents in Rennes, where his father was director of the postal service, and entered the offices of the Intendant of Brittany. In 1790, he settled at Meudon, near Paris, and resumed his education.

During the revolution[edit]

Goujon took part in the early days of the revolution, helping to seize weapons after the dismissal of Necker and becoming a member of the council of the Légion du Châtelet. At the end of 1789, he acquired some academic recognition for his discourse offered as an entry for a prize from the Academy of Dijon, "On the Influence of the Morals of Governments on those of the People", which was influenced by Rousseau and Mably. The prize was not awarded, by the Academy declared that only Goujon's entry had been of genuine interest to them.[1]

In 1791, he first came to the attention of the general public following his response to the letter of Raynal, in which the Encyclopedist violently attacked the work of the Constituent Assembly. Later that year, he was living at Meudon and was invited to deliver the funeral address for Mirabeau at Versailles.[1] He also became a member of the Society of the Friends of the Constitution (known as the Jacobins) of Sèvres. In 1792 he was elected first as administrator, then, the day after the storming of the Tuilleries, as Attorney-General of the Department of Seine-et-Oise.


On 17 September 1792 Goujon became the sixth alternate deputy to the National Convention for Seine-et-Oise, winning 410 out of 657 votes.

Engaged in the fight against high prices in autumn 1792, in November he wrote and presented to the Convention an address demanding the taxation of grain prices. In this he showed that the government's liberal economic policy had important social consequences: "The unlimited freedom of the grain trade is incompatible with the existence of our Republic. And indeed, what constitutes a Republic? A small number of capitalists and a large number of poor... This class of capitalists and landlords, the unlimited freedom that makes mistress of grain prices, is also mistress of the establishment of the working day." He concluded by calling for land reform, with a maximum farm size of 120 acres (0.49 km2), and the central management of essential supplies, with its members elected by the people.[2] He also argued in favour of a law establishing the general maximum, thus introducing price controls. At the time the Convention was dominated by the Gironde, so his proposal was rejected. Only when the Jacobins took power was a Commission on Subsistence and Provisions set up, in October 1793. On 5 Brumaire Year II (26 October 1793) Goujon became one of its three commissioners, and played a major role in this post in establishing the fixed prices that were to be enforced under the general maximum.[2] Having completed this work, Goujon resigned from the Commission on 2 Ventôse (20 February 1794).

Soon after, he was assigned to a diplomatic mission to Istanbul,[3] but never actually went on it. From 5-8 April 1794 he served as interim Foreign Minister and Interior Minister, and on 26 Germinal (15 April)[4] after Hérault de Séchelles was guillotined, Goujon took his seat as a member of the Convention.[2]

On 12 Floréal (1 May) he was appointed by the Committee of Public Safety to be Représentant en mission to the Var, Bouches-du-Rhône and Alpes-Maritimes, but appears not to have actually gone there either. Instead, on 17 Prairial (15 June) he was appointed Représentant en mission to the Armies of the Rhine and the Moselle.[5] He did take up this post, accompanied by Tissot as his secretary, and together with Nicolas Hentz and Pierre Bourbotte, took part in the campaign which conquered the Palatinate.[2]

Goujon was in Thionville when news reached him of the fall of Robespierre in the Thermidorian Reaction. He wrote to the Convention on 13 Thermidor to congratulate it on its victory, and his letter was read aloud from the tribune.[6] He was recalled by order of the Committee of Public Safety on 23 Thermidor (10 August). Reaching Paris on 10 Fructidor (27 August)[5], he soon found himself increasingly at odds with those now in power.

On 12 Fructidor (29 August) he defended the seven members of the former committees who had been attacked by Laurent Lecointre. On 20 Pluviôse Year III (8 February 1795) he responded to the arrest of Gracchus Babeuf and the closure of political clubs by proposing a decree against those who attacked the rights of man and the constitution. On 18 Ventôse (8 March) he was the only deputy with sufficient courage to vote against the readmission to the Convention of Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvrai and other survivors of the Girondin party, whom he felt would be too much inclined to avenge old wrongs.

On 21 Ventôse (11 March) he complained that people who had previously been described as patriots were now being subjected to the vague designation of "terrorists", and claimed that this "vague designation" had been invented by men who wished to stir dissent by placing suspicion on every head.[7] On 1 Germinal (21 March) he fought against the police bill proposed by Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, and when Jean-Lambert Tallien attacked the Constitution of Year I, Goujon threatened him with the anger of the people.


When the populace invaded the legislature on the 1 Prairial Year III (20 May 1795), he proposed the immediate establishment of a special commission to ensure delivery of the changes demanded by the insurgents and assume the functions of the various committees.

The failure of the Prairial insurrection led to the immediate fall of those deputies who had supported the demands of the populace. Before the close of the sitting, Goujon, with Gilbert Romme, Jean-Michel Duroy, Adrien Duquesnoy, Pierre Bourbotte, Pierre-Aimable de Soubrany, and others were placed under arrest by their colleagues> Taken out of Paris, he and his fellow prisoners had a narrow escape from a mob at Avranches on their way to the château du Taureau (fr) in Brittany. While being held in prison there, he composed revolutionary poetry.[8]

They were brought back to Paris for trial before a military commission on 17 June, although no proof of their complicity in organizing the insurrection could be found. (In fact, with the exception of Goujon and Bourbotte, the accused did not know each other). They were sentenced to death. In accordance with a pre-arranged plan, they attempted suicide on the staircase leading from the courtroom with a knife that Goujon had concealed. Goujon succeeded, as did Romme, Bourbotte and Soubrany[9] but the others merely wounded themselves, before being taken immediately to the guillotine.

Before his suicide, he said: "I swore to defend her (i.e. the Constitution of Year I) and die for her, I die happy not to have betrayed my oath... I would die happier if I were certain that after me, she would not be destroyed and replaced by another constitution (i.e.the Constitution of Year III) where equality is disregarded, rights violated, and that the masses will be completely subservient to the rich, sole masters of the government and of the state."


On 3 April 1793, in Mettray, Goujon married Lise (Marie) Cormery (1771-1843), daughter of an administrator of the département of Indre-et-Loire. Camille Desmoulins praised Goujon's letter proposing marriage to Lise Cornery, with its patriotic sentiments, as an example of upright citizenship.[10] They had one son, Philarète, an architect, born in Paris on 28 Frimaire Year III (18 December 1794), who died without issue at Tours on 28 December 1832.[2][11]


  1. ^ a b c d Robert, Adolphe; Cougny, Gaston. "Jean-Marie, Claude, Alexandre Goujon". Assemblée Nationale. Retrieved 13 September 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sylvain Goujon, « Goujon Jean Marie Claude Alexandre », in Albert Soboul (dir.), Dictionnaire historique de la Révolution française, Paris, PUF, 1989 (rééd. Quadrige, 2005, p. 512-513).
  3. ^ Pascal Firges (2017). French Revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire: Political Culture, Diplomacy, and the Limits of Universal Revolution, 1792-1798. Oxford University Press. pp. 209–. ISBN 978-0-19-875996-6. 
  4. ^ "Jean-Marie, Claude, Alexandre Goujon". Assemblée Nationale. Assemblée Nationale. Retrieved 15 September 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Michel Biard, Missionnaires de la République, Paris, CTHS, 2002, p. 516.
  6. ^ A. Ray (1861). Réimpression de l'ancien Moniteur: Convention nationale. H. Plon, imprimeur-éditeur. p. 375. 
  7. ^ Réimpression de l'Ancien Moniteur depuis la réunion des Etats-Généraux jusqu'au Consulat (Mai 1789 - Novembre 1799). Volume 23, page 668 (Au bureau central, 1842)ée
  8. ^ Bruno Fuligni (2010). L'assemblée littéraire: petite anthologie des députés poètes. Ginkgo Editeur. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-2-84679-078-9. 
  9. ^ Christopher Brooke (2012). Philosophic Pride: Stoicism and Political Thought from Lipsius to Rousseau. Princeton University Press. pp. 207–. ISBN 0-691-15208-X. 
  10. ^ Claretie, Jules (1874). Œuvres de Camille Desmoulins. Charpentier et cie. p. 33-34. 
  11. ^ Françoise Brunel, Sylvain Goujon, Les Martyrs de Prairial, textes et documents inédits, pp. 333 and 345
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Goujon, Jean Marie Claude Alexandre". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 283.  In turn, it cites as references:
    • Defense du représentant du peuple Goujon, Paris: undated; includes the letters and a hymn written by Goujon during his imprisonment.
    • Jules Arsène Arnaud Claretie, Les Derniers Montagnards, histoire de l'insurrection de Prairial an III d'après les documents, 1867.
    • Jean Maurice Tourneux, Bibliographie de l'histoire de Paris pendant la Rév. Fr., vol. i pp. 422–425, Paris: 1890.
Political offices
Preceded by
François Louis Michel Chemin Deforgues
Minister of Foreign Affairs
8 April 1794 – 20 April 1794
Succeeded by
Martial Herman
Preceded by
Jules-François Paré
Minister of the Interior
8 April 1794 – 20 April 1794
Succeeded by
Martial Herman