L'Ami du peuple
L'Ami du peuple (French: [lami dy pœpl], The Friend of the People) was a newspaper written by Jean-Paul Marat during the French Revolution. “The most celebrated radical paper of the Revolution”, according to historian Jeremy D. Popkin, L’Ami du peuple was a vocal advocate for the rights of the lower classes against those Marat believed to be enemies of the people, which he had no hesitation mentioning in his writings. These papers were considered dangerous because they often ignited violent and rebellious behavior.
As an elector for the District of the Carmes Déchaussés in 1789, Marat tried to persuade the electoral assembly to publish a journal to keep their electorate informed of current political events. When they did not take up his proposal, Marat resigned his post as elector in order to concentrate on writing a journal himself, at first entitled Le Publiciste parisien. The first issue was published September 12, 1789. After several issues, the name was changed to L’Ami du peuple.
The journal was printed in octavo format, usually eight pages long, although occasionally expanding to twelve or sixteen pages. Marat ordinarily published L’Ami du Peuple on a daily basis, but there are several gaps in its publication due to Marat’s several times going into hiding to avoid arrest, during which he did not print his journal. His continual attacks against Jacques Necker, Jean Sylvain Bailly, the comte de Mirabeau, the Paris Commune, the marquis de Lafayette, the National Constituent Assembly, the Legislative Assembly, the National Convention, the émigrés, and King Louis XVI himself caused several decrees of outlawry and accusation against him and attempts to suppress his journal. His press was destroyed and copies of L’Ami du peuple confiscated at least twice. On one occasion his printer was arrested and imprisoned, and the plates used to print an especially controversial issue—in which he threatened to tear out the heart of Lafayette, burn the King, and impale the deputies of the Assembly upon their seats—were destroyed.
Marat, with no source of independent income, used much of his own savings to print L’Ami du peuple. In early 1792, after returning from a two-month stay in England, he could not afford to continue the journal. With the financial support of his new common-law wife, Simonne Evrard, he was able to renew publication. After the suspension of the monarchy on August 10, 1792, the Committee of Police and Surveillance of the Paris Commune gave Marat four of the royal presses, and the new imprimerie de Marat was set up in the basement of the Convent of the Cordeliers.
Marat's time in National Convention
On September 9, 1792, Marat was elected to the National Convention. On September 25, he began a new journal entitled Journal de la Republique francaise. In April 1793, the Girondists passed a law (later repealed) making it illegal for members of the Convention to be at the same time legislators and journalists; in response, Marat changed the name of his journal again—this time to Publiciste de la Revolution francaise—claiming to be a publicist, not a journalist. It would continue under this name until his death.
Marat resigned from the Convention on June 3, 1793, after the overthrow of the Girondists was complete. His skin disease was now accompanied by a lung complaint, and he spent much of his time in a medicinal bath. His journal during this time consists mostly of letters from his many correspondents. On July 13, Marat was murdered by Charlotte Corday; the last edition of his journal was published the day after his death.
Impact and influence
In all, Marat's L’Ami du peuple ran to nearly seven hundred issues, and the journal he began at his election to the Convention ran to nearly two hundred and fifty issues, in addition to his many other pamphlets. The popularity of his paper led to many counterfeits during his periods of hiding (by those in sympathy with his views and those wishing to misrepresent him) and after his death. His incendiary journalism is credited with playing a significant role in the Women's March on Versailles in October 1789, the suspension of the monarchy on August 10, 1792, the September Massacres and inciting other actions of the revolutionary crowd.
In Marat's own words
Marat describes the start and evolution of his journal (alongside his political views) in his journal of March 19, 1793:
At the outbreak of the Revolution, wearied by the persecutions that I had experienced for so long a time at the hands of the Academy of Sciences, I eagerly embraced the occasion that presented itself of defeating my oppressors and attaining my proper position. I came to the Revolution with my ideas already formed, and I was so familiar with the principles of high politics that they had become commonplaces for me. Having had greater confidence in the mock patriots of the Constituent Assembly than they deserved, I was surprised at their pettiness, their lack of virtue. Believing that they needed light, I entered into correspondence with the most famous deputies, notably with Chapelier, Mirabeau, and Barnave. Their stubborn silence on all my letters soon proved to me that though they needed light, they cared little to be enlightened. I adopted the course of publishing my ideas by means of the press. I founded the Ami du Peuple. I began it with a severe but honest tone, that of a man who wishes to tell the truth without breaking the conventions of society. I maintained that tone for two whole months. Disappointed in finding that it did not produce the entire effect that I had expected, and indignant that the boldness of the unfaithful representatives of the people and of the lying public officials was steadily increasing, I felt that it was necessary to renounce moderation and to substitute satire and irony for simple censure. The bitterness of the satire increased with the number of mismanagements, the iniquity of their projects and the public misfortunes. Strongly convinced of the absolute perversity of the supporters of the old regime and the enemies of liberty, I felt that nothing could be obtained from them except by force. Revolted by their attempts, by their ever-recurrent plots, I realized that no end would be put to these except by exterminating the ones guilty of them. Outraged at seeing the representatives of the nation in league with its deadliest enemies and the laws serving only to tyrannize over the innocent whom they ought to have protected, I recalled to the sovereign people that since they had nothing more to expect from their representatives, it behooved them to mete out justice for themselves. This was done several times.
To the french patriots
My dear compatriots;
A man who has long been fair to you, escapes from his underground retreat to try to put victory in your hands.
Jealous, to prove to you that he is not unworthy of -your confidence; Let him remind you that he Is still under the sword of tyranny, for you too have revealed the terrible machinations of your atrocious Enemies.
He predicted that your armies would be led to the slaughter house by their perfidious generals, and three shameful defeats have signaled the opening of the campaign. He predicted that the barriers of the kingdom would be delivered to the enemy and already the enemy has departed for the second time from the city of Bavai. He predicted that the rotten majority of the national assembly betrayed and the perfidy of his last two decrees, by bringing public indignation to a climax, has at last brought the cruel but too necessary events of that day.
He predicted that you would be eternally sold by your fellow servants, the officials, till you shed blood to save the country, and you have just put the seal on this sad truth.
My dear fellow-citizens, believe a man who knows all the intrigues and conspiracies of conspiracies, and who for three years has never ceased for a moment to watch over your salvation.
The glorious day of the 10th of August, 1792, may be decisive for the triumph of liberty, if you know how to profit by your advantages. A great number of the Satellites of the despatch, the enemy implacable enemy, seem dismayed, but they do not have to return from their trances, and to rise again more terrible than ever. Remember the procedure of the chatelet on the events of the 5th and 6th of October. After having poured your blood to draw the patron of the 'abyss. Tremble at seeing you torn from your beds in the darkness of the night by a fierce soldier, and being thrown into the dungeons, where you will be abandoned of your wishes, To make them perish on the scaffold.
Dread the reaction, I repeat to you, your enemies will not spoil you, if the ten returns to them. Thus, no quarter, you are lost without return, if you do not hasten to bring down the rotten members of the municipality, the department, all the anti-patriot justices of the peace, and the most gangrenous members of the national assembly; I say of the National Assembly, and by what fatal prejudice, what fatal respect would they be spared! One ceases to say. That, however bad it may be, it is necessary to rally round it, it is to say that it is necessary to assemble on the mine converted under your steps; And restore the care of your dreams to villains determined to consume your ruin; Consider that the assembly is your most formidable enemy; as long as it is on foot, it will work to ruin you; And as long as you live with arms in your hand, she will seek to flatter you. She will seek to flatter you and fall asleep by false promises. She will engineer herself dully to chain your efforts, and when she has come to the end, she will deliver you to the sword of the bribed satellites: Remember the Champ de Mars.
Nobody is more than a mere wearer of the blood; but, to prevent it from shedding its waves, I urge you to shed some of it. To bestow the duties of humanity with the care of public safety, I propose to decimate the con-revolutionary members of the municipality, the justices of the peace, the department, and the national assembly. If you back down , Think that the bloodshed in this day will be in pure loss, and that you have done nothing for
But, over all things, hold the king, his wife, and his son as a hostage, and until his defiant judgment is pronounced, and be shown four times daily to the people. And as it depends on him to remove our enemies forever, declare to him that under a fortnight the Austrians and the Prussians are not twenty leagues from the frontiers to no longer repay, his head will roll at his feet. Demand that he trace this terrible judgment with his own hand, and let him pass it over to his accomplices. It is up to him to get rid of it.
Take also the ex-ministers, and hold them in chains.
That all the counter-revolutionary members of the Parisian staff be supplicated, all the anti-patriotic officers expelled from the battalions: disarm the rotten battalions of Saint-Roch, the Filles Saint-Thomas, Notre-Dame, Saint-Jean In Greve, of the Red Children. Let all patriotic citizens be armed, and abundantly provided with ammunition.
Lastly, to bring back the decree which innocent the perfidious Mottié, demand the convocation of a national convention to defy the king, and reform the constitution; and, above all, that its members should not be appointed by an electoral body, but by the primary assemblies.
Have the immediate dismissal of all the foreign regiments and Switzerland, who have been enemies of the revolution, decreed.
Finally, put to price by the assembly of your atrocious oppressors, the fugitive, treacherous and rebellious Capets. Tremble and tremble, to let a single escape escape, which the tutelary genius of France has led you out of the abyss, and secure your liberty,
Paris, this 10th of August, 1792.
MARAT, Friend of the People.
- Darnton and Roche 1989, p. 162.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 49.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 49.
- Belfort Bax 1902, p. 105.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 62.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 78.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 92.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 97.
- Gottschalk 1966, pp. 128-29.
- Gottschalk 1966, pp. 152-53.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 166.
- Gottschalk 1966, pp. 168-69.
- Gottschalk 1966, pp. 179–80.
- Belfort Bax 1901, p. 111.
- Gottschalk 1966, pp. 58–59.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 96–97.
- Gottschalk 1966, pp. 120–26.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 148.
- Gottschalk 1966, p. 52.
- Marat, J-P. (1792). L' Ami du Peuple aux Français patriotes. De L'imprimerie de Marat.
- Gottschalk, Louis R. (1927, reissued 1966). Jean-Paul Marat: A Study in Radicalism, Benjamin Bloom.
- Darnton, Robert and Roche, Daniel, editors. (1989). Revolution in Print: the Press in France, 1775-1800, University of California Press.
- Belfort Bax, Ernest (1901). Jean-Paul Marat, The People’s Friend, Grant Richards.
- Marxists.org Marat Archive Collection of excerpts from L'Ami du peuple and Marat's other journals.