Jean-Paul Marat

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Jean-Paul Marat
Jean-Paul Marat

Marat by Joseph Boze, 1793

Member of the National Convention
In office
9 September 1792 – 13 July 1793

Born May 24 1743(1743-05-24)
Boudry, Principality of Neuchâtel, Prussia
Died 13 July 1793 (aged 50)
Paris, France
Constituency Paris
Political party The Mountain
Spouse Simone Evrard [fr] (m. 1792)
Alma mater University of St Andrews (MD)
Occupation Journalist, politician, physician, scientist
Signature Jean-Paul Marat's signature

Jean-Paul Marat (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃pɔl maʁa]; born Mara; May 24, 1743 – July 13, 1793) was a French political theorist, physician, and scientist. A journalist and politician during the French Revolution, he was a vigorous defender of the sans-culottes, a radical voice who published his views in pamphlets, placards and newspapers. His periodical L'Ami du peuple (Friend of the People) gave him an unofficial link with the radical Jacobin group that came to power after June 1793.

After the fall of the Girondins, in which Marat played an important role, he was assassinated by Charlotte Corday, a Girondin sympathizer, while taking a medicinal bath for his debilitating skin condition. Corday was executed four days later for his assassination, on July 17, 1793.

In death, Marat became an icon to the Montagnards faction of the Jacobins as well as the greater sans-culottes population, and a revolutionary martyr. He was eulogized by the Marquis de Sade. The most famous painter in Paris, Jacques-Louis David, immortalized Marat in his iconic painting The Death of Marat. David and Marat were part of the Paris Commune leadership anchored in the Cordeliers section, from which the Revolution is said to have started in 1789 because those who stormed the Bastille lived there. Both David and Marat were on the Commune's Committee of General Security during the beginnings of what would become known as the Reign of Terror.

Early life, education, and early writing


Commemorative plaque on the house where Marat was born, in Boudry in Switzerland

Marat was born Jean-Paul Mara in Boudry, in the Prussian Principality of Neuchâtel (now a canton of Switzerland), on May 24, 1743.[1] He was the first of five children born to Jean Mara (born Juan Salvador Mara; 1704–1783), a Sardinian from Cagliari of Spanish descent, and Louise Cabrol (1724–1782), from Geneva.[2] His father studied in Spain and Sardinia before becoming a Mercedarian monk in 1720, at age 16. At some point he left the order and converted to Calvinism, and in 1740 immigrated to the Protestant Republic of Geneva. His mother, from a Huguenot background on both sides of her family, was the daughter of French perruquier Louis Cabrol, originally from Castres, Languedoc, and a Genevan citizen after 1723, and Cabrol's wife, Pauline-Catherine Molinier. Jean Mara and Louise Cabrol married on March 19, 1741 at the parish church of Le Petit-Saconnex, a district of Geneva. One of Marat's brothers, David Mara (born 1756), was a professor at the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum in the Russian Empire, where the famous poet, Alexander Pushkin, was his student.[3]

Marat's family lived in moderate circumstances, as his father was well educated but unable to secure a stable profession. Marat credits his father for instilling in him a love of learning. He explains he felt "exceptionally fortunate to have had the advantage of receiving a very careful education in my paternal home."[4] From his mother, he claims to have been taught a strong sense of morality and social conscience. Marat left home at the age of 16, desiring to seek an education in France. He was aware of the limited opportunities for those seen as outsiders as his highly educated father had been turned down for several college (secondary) teaching posts. In 1754 his family settled in Neuchâtel, capital of the Principality, where Marat's father began working as a tutor.[2]


Marat received his early education in the city of Neuchâtel where he was a student of Jean-Élie Bertrand, who later founded the Société typographique de Neuchâtel.[2] At 17 years of age he applied for the expedition of Jean-Baptiste Chappe d'Auteroche to Tobolsk to measure the transit of Venus, but was turned down.[5] His first patronage was with the wealthy Nairac family in Bordeaux, where he stayed for two years. He then moved to Paris and studied medicine without gaining any formal qualifications. After moving to France, Jean-Paul Mara francized his surname to "Marat."[6] He worked, informally, as a doctor after moving to London in 1765 for fear of being "drawn into dissipation." While there he befriended the Royal Academician artist Angelica Kauffman. His social circle included Italian artists and architects who met in coffee houses around Soho. Highly ambitious, but without patronage or qualifications, he set about inserting himself into the intellectual scene.

Political, philosophical, and medical writing

Around 1770, Marat moved to Newcastle upon Tyne. His first political work, Chains of Slavery (1774), inspired by the extra-parliamentary activities of the disenfranchised MP and later Mayor of London John Wilkes, was most probably compiled in the central library there. By Marat's own colorful account, while composing the work he lived on black coffee for three months and slept two hours a night. After finishing it he slept soundly for 13 days in a row.[7] He gave it the subtitle, "A work in which the clandestine and villainous attempts of Princes to ruin Liberty are pointed out, and the dreadful scenes of Despotism disclosed." In the work, Marat criticizes aspects of England's constitution that he believes are corrupt or despotic. He condemns the King's power to influence Parliament through bribery and attacks limitations on voting rights. Chains of Slavery's political ideology take clear inspiration from French philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau, attributing the nation's sovereignty to the common people rather than a monarch. He also suggests that the people express sovereignty through representatives who cannot enact legislation without the approval of the people they represent.[8] This work earned him honorary membership of the patriotic societies of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Carlisle and Newcastle. The Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society Library possesses a copy, and Tyne and Wear Archives Service holds three presented to the various Newcastle guilds.

Marat published A philosophical Essay on Man in 1773 and political theory Chains of Slavery in 1774. Voltaire's sharp critique of De l'Homme (an augmented translation, published 1775–76), partly in defense of his protégé Helvétius, reinforced Marat's growing sense of a widening gulf between the philosophes grouped around Voltaire on one hand, and their "opponents" loosely grouped around Rousseau on the other.[9]

After a published essay on curing a friend of gleets (gonorrhoea) he secured medical referees for an MD from the University of St Andrews in June 1775.[10]

He published Enquiry into the Nature, Cause, and Cure of a Singular Disease of the Eyes on his return to London. In 1776, Marat moved to Paris after stopping in Geneva to visit his family.

In Paris, his growing reputation as a highly effective doctor along with the patronage of the Marquis de l'Aubespine (the husband of one of his patients) secured his appointment as physician to the bodyguard of the comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's youngest brother who was to become king Charles X in 1824.[11] He began this position in June 1777. The position paid 2,000 livres a year plus allowances.

Scientific writing

Marat set up a laboratory in the Marquise de l'Aubespine's house with funds obtained by serving as court doctor for the aristocracy. His method was to describe in detail the meticulous series of experiments he had undertaken on a problem, seeking to explore and then exclude all possible conclusions but the one he reached.

He published works on fire and heat, electricity, and light. He published a summary of his scientific views and discoveries in Découvertes de M. Marat sur le feu, l'électricité et la lumière (English: Mr Marat's Discoveries on Fire, Electricity and Light) in 1779. He published three more detailed and extensive works that expanded on each of his areas of research.[12]

Recherches Physiques sur le Feu

The first of Marat's large-scale publications detailing his experiments was Recherches Physiques sur le Feu (English: Research into the Physics of Fire), which was published in 1780 with the approval of the official censors.[13]

This publication describes 166 experiments conducted to demonstrate that fire was not, as was widely held, a material element but an "igneous fluid." He asked the Academy of Sciences to appraise his work, and it appointed a commission to do so, which reported in April 1779. The report avoided endorsing Marat's conclusions but praised his "new, precise and well-executed experiments, appropriately and ingeniously designed." Marat then published his work, with the claim that the Academy approved of its contents. Since the Academy had endorsed his methods but said nothing about his conclusions, this claim drew the ire of Antoine Lavoisier, who demanded that the Academy repudiate it. When the Academy did so, it marked the beginning of worsening relations between Marat and many of its leading members. A number of them, including Lavoisier himself, as well as Condorcet and Laplace took a strong dislike to Marat. However, Lamarck and Lacépède wrote positively about Marat's experiments and conclusions.[14]

Découvertes sur la Lumière

In Marat's time, Newton's views on light and color were regarded almost universally as definitive, yet Marat's explicit purpose in his second major work Découvertes sur la Lumière (Discoveries on Light) was to demonstrate that in certain key areas, Newton was mistaken.[15]

The focus of Marat's work was the study of how light bends around objects. His main argument was that while Newton held that white light was broken down into colors by refraction, the colors were actually caused by diffraction. When a beam of sunlight shone through an aperture, passed through a prism and projected color onto a wall, the splitting of the light into colors took place not in the prism, as Newton maintained, but at the edges of the aperture itself.[16] Marat sought to demonstrate that there are only three primary colors, rather than seven as Newton had argued.[17]

Once again, Marat requested the Academy of Sciences review his work, and it set up a commission to do so. Over a period of seven months, from June 1779 to January 1780, Marat performed his experiments in the presence of the commissioners so that they could appraise his methods and conclusions. The drafting of their final report was assigned to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy. The report was finally produced after many delays in May 1780, and consisted of just three short paragraphs. Significantly, the report concluded that "these experiments are so very numerous...[but]...they do not appear to us to prove what the author believes they establish". [18] The Academy declined to endorse Marat's work.[19] When it was published, Découvertes sur la lumière did not carry the royal approbation. The book was printed in London, suggesting that either Marat could not get the official censor to approve it, or that he did not want to spend the time and effort to do so.

Recherches Physiques sur L'Électricité

Marat's third major work, Recherches Physiques sur l'Électricité (English: Research on the Physics of Electricity), outlined 214 experiments. One of his major areas of interest was in electrical attraction and repulsion. Repulsion, he held, was not a basic force of nature. He addressed a number of other areas of enquiry in his work, concluding with a section on lightning rods which argued that those with pointed ends were more effective than those with blunt ends, and denouncing the idea of "earthquake rods" advocated by Pierre Bertholon de Saint-Lazare. This book was published with the censor's stamp of approval, but Marat did not seek the endorsement of the Academy of Sciences.[20]

In April 1783,[21] he resigned his court appointment and devoted his energies full-time to scientific research. Apart from his major works, during this period Marat published shorter essays on the medical use of electricity (Mémoire sur l'électricité médicale (1783)) and on optics (Notions élémentaires d'optique (1784)). He published a well-received translation of Newton's Opticks (1787), which was still in print until recently, and later a collection of essays on his experimental findings, including a study on the effect of light on soap bubbles in his Mémoires académiques, ou nouvelles découvertes sur la lumière (Academic memoirs, or new discoveries on light, 1788). Benjamin Franklin visited him on several occasions and Goethe described his rejection by the Academy as a glaring example of scientific despotism.

Other pre-Revolutionary writing

In 1782, Marat published his "favorite work," a Plan de législation criminelle. It was a polemic for penal reform which had been entered into a competition announced by the Berne economic society in February 1777 and backed by Frederick the Great and Voltaire. Marat was inspired by Rousseau and Cesare Beccaria (the person who wrote "Il libro dei delitti e delle pene"

Marat's entry contained many radical ideas. He argued that society should provide fundamental (natural) needs, such as food and shelter, if it expected all its citizens to follow its (civil) laws. Other assertions included that the king was no more than the "first magistrate" of his people, that there should be a common death penalty regardless of class, and that each town should have a dedicated "avocat des pauvres" and set up independent criminal tribunals with twelve-man juries to ensure a fair trial.

In the early French Revolution

Estates General and Fall of the Bastille

Marat by Jean-François Garneray

In 1788, the Assembly of Notables advised Louis XVI to assemble the Estates-General for the first time in 175 years. Marat was very ill in the latter half of 1788, but upon hearing of the King's decision to call together the Estates General, he explains that the "news had a powerful effect on me; my illness suddenly broke and my spirits revived."[22] He strongly desired to contribute his ideas to the coming events and subsequently abandoned his career as a scientist and doctor, writing on behalf of the Third Estate.

In February 1789, Marat published his first contribution to the revolution anonymously. Titled Offrande à la Patrie (Offering to the Nation), he touched on some of the same points as the Abbé Sieyès' famous "Qu'est-ce que le Tiers État?" ("What is the Third Estate?").[23] Marat claimed that this work caused a sensation throughout France, though he likely exaggerated its effect as the pamphlet mostly echoed ideas similar to many other pamphlets and cahiers circulating at the time.[24] It was followed by a "Supplément de l'Offrande" in March, in which he seems less optimistic, expressing displeasure with the King's Lettres Royales of January 24. In August 1789, he published La Constitution, ou Projet de déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen (The Constitution, or Draft Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen), intending to influence the drafting of France's new constitution under debate in the National Assembly. In this work, he builds his theories upon ideas taken from Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, claiming that the sovereignty of the nation rests with the people and emphasizing the need for the separation of powers. He argues for a constitutional monarchy, believing that a republic is ineffective in large nations.[25] Marat's work elicited no response from the National Assembly.

On July 14, three days after Louis XVI dismissed Jacques Necker as his financial advisor, the people of Paris attacked the Hotel des Invalides and the Bastille, marking the first insurrection of the French Revolution. Marat was not directly involved in the Fall of the Bastille but sought to glorify his role that day by claiming that he had intercepted a group of German soldiers on Pont Neuf. He claims that these soldiers were seeking to crush the revolution in its infancy, but that he had successfully convinced a crowd to force the soldiers to surrender their weapons.[26] There is no evidence or other accounts that confirm Marat's story.

L'Ami du peuple

On September 12, 1789 Marat began his own newspaper, entitled Publiciste parisien, before changing its name four days later to L'Ami du peuple ("The People's friend").[27] From this position, he often attacked the most influential and powerful groups in Paris as conspirators against the Revolution, including the Paris Commune, the Constituent Assembly, the ministers, and the Châtelet.[28] In January 1790, he moved to the radical Cordeliers section, then under the leadership of the lawyer, Danton. He was nearly arrested for his aggressive attacks against Jacques Necker, Louis XVI's popular Finance Minister, and was forced to flee to London.[29] In May, he returned to Paris to continue publication of L'Ami du peuple, briefly running a second newspaper in June 1790 called Le Junius français, named after the notorious English polemicist Junius.[30] Marat's political enemies began distributing counterfeit versions of L'Ami du peuple.[31] Marat had the police intervene to halt publication of the fraudulent issues of L'Ami de peuple.[32] In January 1792, he married the 26-year-old Simone Evrard[33] in a common-law ceremony on his return from exile in London, having previously expressed his love for her. She was the sister-in-law of his typographer, Jean-Antoine Corne, who had lent him money and sheltered him on several occasions.

During this period, Marat made regular attacks on the more conservative revolutionary leaders, promoting violent actions. In a pamphlet from July 26, 1790, entitled "C'en est fait de nous" ("We're done for!"), he warned against counter-revolutionaries, advising, "five or six hundred heads cut off would have assured your repose, freedom and happiness."[34]

Skin disease

Described during his time as a man "short in stature, deformed in person, and hideous in face,"[35] Marat has long been noted for physical irregularities. The nature of Marat's debilitating skin disease, in particular, has been an object of ongoing medical interest. In the 19th century Thomas Carlyle alleged that the cause was syphilis, though this is very unlikely as syphilitic rashes are generally neither itchy nor as long-lasting. Dr. Josef E. Jelinek noted that his skin disease was intensely itchy, blistering, began in the perianal region, and was associated with weight loss leading to emaciation. He was sick with it for the three years prior to his assassination, and spent most of this time in his bathtub. He used various minerals and medicines in his bath while he soaked to help ease the pain caused by the disease. A bandana wrapped around his head was soaked in vinegar to reduce the severity of his discomfort.[36] Jelinek's diagnosis is dermatitis herpetiformis.[37] Between 1789 and 1792, Marat had often been forced into hiding, sometimes in the Paris sewers, where he almost certainly aggravated his debilitating chronic skin disease.

Committee on Surveillance

Anonymous portrait of Marat, c. 1793 (Musée Carnavalet)

Marat only emerged publicly around the Insurrection of August 10, 1792, when a mob composed of the Paris Commune's National Guard and the fédérés, volunteers from Marseille and Brittany, stormed the Tuileries Palace, forcing the royal family to shelter within the Legislative Assembly. The spark for this uprising was the Duke of Brunswick's Brunswick Manifesto, which called for the crushing of the Revolution and helped to inflame popular outrage in Paris.[38][39] Hundred of Swiss guards, who were guarding the King, and revolutionaries were killed in the action.

The Brunswick Manifesto, issued in late July, and concerns that the Civil War was going badly for France stirred up a lot of concern on the part of the revolutionaries and their supporters. The Commune, the city government of Paris, formed a Committee on Surveillance which included Marat, Billaud-Varennes, Collot d'Herbois, Georges Danton, Tallien, Panis and Jacques-Louis David. Marat appointed himself head of the committee and issued an arrest warrant for Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, Minister of the Interior in King Louis's government in 1792. Roland was a key figure among the Girondins, who Marat despised. The Girondins were political rivals and Roland had denied him a grant from the Secret Service fund.[40]

The Committee quickly decided to round up those they believed were "suspect"; four thousand were sent into the prisons by late August 1792. The Committee also planned what to do with these mostly ordinary people, who were now political prisoners.

September Massacres

Main article: September Massacres

Revolutionary fervor grew in response to concerns about the civil war and spurred on by the Brunswick Manifesto. On September 2, news arrived in Paris that the army of the Duke of Braunschweig had invaded France and the fortress of Verdun had quickly fallen, and that the Prussians were rapidly advancing towards the capital. This information ignited anger and fear among the population. Parisians feared that the Prussians would occupy Paris and destroy it. After the capture of Verdun, the Prussian army was only a hundred miles from Paris.

Danton at the same moment was urging from the tribune the necessity of the prompt appointment of a court to try traitors, as the only alternative to the popular justice of the streets. Robespierre, Danton and Marat all stressed the necessity of a tribunal that would judge these crimes. Robespierre intervened on August 15, as a delegate of the Commune, and proclaimed: "Since 10 August, the just vengeance of the people has not yet been satisfied.“[41] The Girondist National Assembly hesitated at creating the tribunals, but the revolutionary tribunal with the power to execute suspected counter-revolutionaries, a precursor to the Reign of Terror, was established on August 17.

Marat called for a "new blood-letting", larger than the one on August 10. He stopped publishing L'Ami du peuple for a few weeks. For a while he published posters printed in the basement of the Cordeliers Convent.[42]) Marat left nothing in doubt when he urged "good citizens to go to the Abbaye, to seize priests, and especially the officers of the Swiss guards and their accomplices and run a sword through them." Whether Marat intended this literally or metaphorically, the effect was the same.[43]

Marat's role has bee the subject of debate among historians. Marat did not personally participate in the violence of the massacres. Some historians on the left point to a climate of crisis caused by the events of the civil war, minimizing his culpability.[44]In the Créole patriote for September 2, the account begins by evoking August 10: 'The people, justly indignant at the crimes committed during the journée of 10 August, made for the prisons. They still feared plots and traitors... The news that Verdun had been taken... provoked their resentment and vengeance.’[45]

But while the climate of fear was real, it does not fully explain what would come next. Beginning Sunday, September 2, and lasting through Thursday, September 6, around 1500 prisoners were slaughtered. Marat and his Committee of Surveillance of the Commune organized the massacres, first voting to round up 4,000 mostly ordinary people, "suspects" of the committee. They agreed to kill them in "whole groups," voting down a Marat proposal to set them on fire, finally agreeing to a proposal by Billaud-Varennes to "butcher them."[46] The bulk of the butchers were made up of "Marseilles," "foreign vagabonds, dregs of all nations, Genosee, Corsicans and Greeks lead by a Pole named Lazowski"[47]. These were "hired assassins", paid twenty-four dollars, whose names were listed by "M. Granier de Cassagnac."[48] The rest were murderers and others previously imprisoned for violent crimes released ahead of time from the prisons to which they would soon be returning to carry out the massacres.

On September 3, the second day of the massacres, the Committee of Surveillance of the Commune published a circular that called on provincial Patriots to defend Paris and asked that, before leaving their homes, they eliminate counter-revolutionaries. Authored by Marat as head of the Committee, signed by him and circulated to the provinces, it hailed the rounding up and killing of political enemies going on in Paris as a model for the provinces.

At times those enacting violence were joined by mobs of locals, some of who had armed themselves in preparation for a defense of the city National Guardsmen and some fédérés.[49] In some cases makeshift "courts" were set-up, prisoners were pronounced "free" or "guilty" and then all were led to a central courtyard where they were bludgeoned, hacked, speared, and decapitated. In other prisons, small bands of mercenaries entered cells which had held murderers days before, who turned their craft on the innocents brought in by the Committee, some as young as 10.[50]

An article in No.12 of Marat’s Journal de la République tried to shift responsibility to the Convention, occasioned by the virulent attacks of the Girondins on the Commune, the Committee of Supervision, and above all on Marat himself.

The disastrous events of the 2nd and 3rd of September, which perfidious and venal persons attribute to the Municipality, has been solely promoted by the denial of justice on the part of the Criminal tribunal which whitewashed the conspirator Montmarin, by the protection thus proclaimed to all others conspirators, and by the indignation of the people, fearing to find itself the slave of all the traitors who have for so long abused its misfortunes and its disasters. They call those brigands who massacred the traitors and scoundrels confined in the prisons. If that were so, Pétion would be criminal for having peaceably left brigands to perpetrate their crimes during two consecutive days in all the prisons of Paris. His culpable inaction would be the most serious crime, and he would merit the loss of his head for not having mobilised his whole armed force to oppose them. He will doubtless tell you, in order to exculpate himself, that the armed force would not have obeyed him, and that all Paris was involved, which is indeed a fact. Let us agree, then, that it is an imposture to make brigands responsible for an operation unhappily only too necessary. It is then because the conspirators have escaped the sword of justice that they have fallen under the axe of the people. Is it necessary to say more to refute the dishonest insinuation, which would make the Committee of Supervision of the Commune responsible for these popular executions?[51]

National Convention

Main article: National Convention
"Marat's Triumph": a popular engraving of Marat borne away by a joyous crowd following his acquittal.

Marat was elected to the National Convention in September 1792 as one of 26 Paris deputies, although he belonged to no party. When France was declared a Republic on September 22, Marat renamed his L'Ami du peuple as Le Journal de la République française ("Journal of the French Republic"). His stance during the trial of the deposed king Louis XVI was unique. He declared it unfair to accuse Louis of anything before his acceptance of the French Constitution of 1791, and although implacably, he said, believing that the monarch's death would be good for the people, defended Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, the King's counsel, as a "sage et respectable vieillard" ("wise and respected old man").

On January 21, 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined, which caused political turmoil. From January to May, Marat fought bitterly with the Girondins, whom he believed to be covert enemies of republicanism. Marat's hatred and suspicion of the Girondins became increasingly heated which led him to call for the use of violent tactics against them. The Girondins fought back and demanded that Marat be tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal. After trying to avoid arrest for several days, Marat was finally imprisoned. On April 24, he was brought before the Tribunal on the charges that he had printed in his paper statements calling for widespread murder as well as the suspension of the Convention. In the midst of the failures in the civil war the Girondins were losing favor and overplayed their hand. Marat decisively defended his actions, stating that he had no evil intentions directed against the Convention. Marat was acquitted of all charges to the riotous celebrations of his supporters.


Bloodstained copy of L'Ami du peuple held by Marat at his assassination, now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France

The fall of the Girondins in the Insurrection of May 31 - June 2 1793, helped by the actions of François Hanriot, the new leader of the National Guard, was one of Marat's last achievements. Forced to retire from the Convention due to his worsening skin disease, he continued to work from home, where he soaked in a medicinal bath. Now that the Montagnards no longer needed his support in the struggle against the Girondins, Robespierre and other leading Montagnards began to separate themselves from him, while the Convention largely ignored his letters.

The assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday on 13 July 1793

Marat was in his bathtub on July 13, when a young woman from Caen, Charlotte Corday, appeared at his flat, claiming to have vital information on the activities of the escaped Girondins who had fled to Normandy. Corday was a Girondin sympathizer who came from an impoverished royalist family; her brothers were émigrés who had left to join the exiled royal princes. From her own account, and those of witnesses, it is clear that she had been inspired by Girondin speeches to a hatred of the Montagnards and their excesses, symbolized most powerfully in the character of Marat.[52]

Despite his wife Simone's protests, Marat asked for her to enter and gave her an audience by his bath, over which a board had been laid to serve as a writing desk. Their interview lasted around fifteen minutes. He asked her what was happening in Caen and she explained, reciting a list of the offending deputies. After he had finished writing out the list, Corday claimed that he told her, "Their heads will fall within a fortnight,"[53][54] a statement she later changed at her trial to, "Soon I shall have them all guillotined in Paris."

At that moment, Corday rose from her chair, drawing out from her corset a five-inch kitchen knife, which she had purchased earlier that day, and brought it down hard into Marat's chest. It pierced just under his right clavicle, opening the brachiocephalic artery, close to the heart. The massive bleeding was fatal within seconds. Slumping backwards, Marat cried out his last words to Simone, "Aidez-moi, ma chère amie!" ("Help me, my beloved!") and died.[55]

The Book of Days claims the motive was to "avenge the death of her friend Barboroux." Marat's assassination contributed to the mounting suspicion which fed the Reign of Terror during which thousands of the Jacobins' adversaries – both royalists and Girondins – were executed on charges of treason. Charlotte Corday was guillotined on July 17, 1793 for the murder. During her four-day trial, she testified that she had carried out the assassination alone, saying "I killed one man to save 100,000."[56]

Funeral and Eulogy

The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David (1793)

Marat's assassination led to his apotheosis. The painter Jacques-Louis David, a member of one of the Convention's two "Great Committees" (the Committee of General Security), was asked to organize a grand funeral.[57] David was also asked to paint Marat's death, and took up the task of immortalizing him in the painting The Death of Marat. The extreme decomposition of Marat's body made any realistic depiction impossible, and David's work beautified the skin that was discoloured and scabbed from his chronic skin disease in an attempt to create antique virtue. The resulting painting is thus not an accurate representation of Marat's death. As a result of this work, David was later criticized for glorifying the Jacobin's death.

The entire National Convention attended Marat's funeral, and he was buried under a weeping willow in the garden of the former Club des Cordeliers (former Couvent des Cordeliers).[58] After Marat's death, he was viewed by many as a martyr for the revolution, and was immortalized in various ways to preserve his memory. His heart was embalmed separately and placed in an urn in an altar erected to his memory at the Cordeliers to inspire speeches that were similar in style to Marat's eloquent journalism.[59] On his tomb, the inscription on a plaque read, "Unité, Indivisibilité de la République, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ou la mort." His remains were transferred to the Panthéon on September 21, 1794.[60] The Marquis de Sade eulogized him, assigning him a near messianic role in the Revolution: Like Jesus, Marat loved ardently the people, and only them. Like Jesus, Marat hated kings, nobles, priests, rogues and, like Jesus, he never stopped fighting against these plagues of the people. De Sade was a delegate of the Section Piques and an ally of Marat's faction in the National Convention.[61][62] According to contemporary accounts, some even mourned him with a kind of prayer: "O heart of Jesus! O sacred heart of Marat".[63]


Statue of Marat in front of the Musée de la Révolution française

On November 19 the port city of Le Havre-de-Grâce changed its name to Le Havre-de-Marat and then Le Havre-Marat.[64] When the Jacobins started their dechristianisation campaign to set up the Cult of Reason of Hébert and Chaumette and later the Cult of the Supreme Being of the Committee of Public Safety, Marat was made a quasi-saint, and his bust often replaced crucifixes in the former churches of Paris.[65]

After the Thermidorian Reaction, Marat's memory became tarnished. On January 13, 1795, Le Havre-Marat became simply Le Havre. In February, his coffin was removed from the Panthéon and his busts and sculptures were destroyed. The February 4, 1795 (16 Pluviôse) issue of Le Moniteur Universel reported that, two days earlier, "his busts had been knocked off their pedestals in several theatres and that some children had carried one of these busts about the streets, insulting it [before] dumping it in the rue Montmartre sewer to shouts of 'Marat, voilà ton Panthéon !' [Marat, here is your Panthéon][66] His final resting place is the cemetery of the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.[67]

A bronze sculpture of Marat was removed from Parc des Buttes Chaumont and was melted down during the Nazi occupation of Paris.[68] Another was created in 2013 for the Musée de la Révolution française.

The Bolsheviks were inspired by the French Revolution, where his memory lived on. Marat became a common name, and Marat Fjord in Severnaya Zemlya was named after him. Russian battleship Petropavlovsk (Russian: Петропавловск) was renamed Marat in 1921.[69]

Selected Works

  • Jean-Paul Marat, A Philosophical Essay on Man: Being an Attempt to Investigate the Principles and Laws of the Reciprocal Influence of the Soul on the Body. Palala Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1340853655
  • Jean-Paul Marat, An Essay On the Human Soul. Palala Press, 2016, ISBN 978-1357007690
  • Jean-Paul Marat, Chains of Slavery. a Work Wherein the Clandestine and Villianous Attempts of Princes to Ruin Liberty Are Pointed Out. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Ecco, 2018, ISBN 978-1379649373
  • Jean-Paul Marat, Les chaînes de l'esclavage, (French Edition). Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015, ISBN 978-1517704131
  • Jean-Paul Marat, Jean-Paul Marat: Esprit Politique Accompagne de Sa Vie Scientifique, Politique, Et Privee; Tome 1 (French Edition). New York, NY: Wentworth Press, 2016, ISBN 978-1373248831


  1. Ernest Belefort Bay, Jean-Paul Marat; The People's Friend, A Biographical Sketch (1901; Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, GR: Vogt Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1443723626), 5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 René Sigrist, "Jean-Paul Marat," Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, December 14, 2007. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  3. Charlotte Goëtz-Nothomb, "Jean-Paul Marat – Notice Generale," 5–6, 9. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  4. Clifford D. Conner, Jean-Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution (London, UK: Pluto Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0745331942), 9–11.
  5. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Science and Polity in France: The End of the Old Regime (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0691118499), 292.
  6. Adolphe Robert and Gaston Cougny, Dictionnaire des parlementaires français," Paris, FR, 1891, 252. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  7. Jean-Paul Marat, Les Chaines de l’Esclavage ed. Charlotte Goetz et Jacques de Cock, 1793. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  8. Louis Reichenthal Gottschalk, Jean Paul Marat: A study in radicalism (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1927, ISBN 978-0226305325), 19–22.
  9. Jean-Paul Marat, Œuvres de Jean-Paul Marat 10 volumes, ed. Jacques de Cock and Charlotte Goetz, Brussels, BE: Éditions Pôle Nord, 1995. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  10. Clifford D. Conner, Jean Paul Marat: Scientist and revolutionary (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1999, ISBN 978-1573926072), 33.
  11. Conner 1999, 35.
  12. Isaac Asimov, Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1982, ISBN 978-0385177719), 334.
  13. Conner 1999, 71.
  14. Conner 1999, 77–79.
  15. Jean-François Baillon, "Two Eighteenth-Century Translators of Newton's Opticks: Pierre Coste and Jean-Paul Marat," Enlightenment and Dissent 25 (2009): 1–28.
  16. Conner 1999, 89–95.
  17. Conner 1999, 105–106.
  18. Baillon, 1-28.
  19. Conner 1999, 94–95.
  20. Conner 1999, 132.
  21. Conner 1999, 35.
  22. Conner 2012, 32.
  23. Serge Bianchi, Marat: "L'Ami du peuple" (Paris, FR: Belin Publishing, 2017, ISBN 978-2410003055).
  24. Gottschalk, 38–39.
  25. Gottschalk, 45–47.
  26. Conner 2012, 39–40.
  27. Jacques De Cock, Un journal dans la Révolution : "L'Ami du Peuple". (Fantasques Éditions, 2013). Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  28. Pierre Albert, "Ami du Peuple," Encyclopædia Universalis Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  29. Walter Gérard, Marat (Paris, FR: Albin Michel, 2012, ASIN B09KNSBVXY), 56–59.
  30. De Cock, 73-76.
  31. Bay, 70.
  32. Jean Massin, Marat (Aix en Provence, FR: Éditions Alinéa, 1988, ISBN 2904631585), 122.
  33. Bay, 191.
  34. Gregory Fremont-Barnes, Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Revolutions and New Ideologies, 1760-1815, volume 1 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Inc., 2007, ISBN 9780313334450), 450-451.
  35. John Adolphus, Biographical Anecdotes of the Founders of the French Republic, London: R. Phillips, 1799, 232. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  36. Stanley Loomis, Paris in the Terror (New York, NY: Dorset House Publishing Co., Inc., 1990, ISBN 978-0880294010), 42.
  37. J. E. Jelinek, "Jean-Paul Marat: The differential diagnosis of his skin disease," American Journal of Dermatopathology 1(3), 1979, 251–52.
  38. Massin, 206.
  39. William Simpson and Martin Jones, Europe 1783–1914 (Milton Park, UK: Taylor & Francis, 2015, ISBN 978-1138786530), 87.
  40. Loomis, 76-77.
  41. Maximilien Robespierre, Archives parlementaires, volume 48, August 15, 1792, 180.
  42. Louis R. Gottschalk, Jean-Paul Marat: A Study in Radicalism (1927; Benjamin Bloom, 1966, ISBN 978-1404893825), 97.
  43. Simon Schama, Citizens: A chronicle of the French Revolution (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1989, ISBN 0679726101), 630; L'Amie du peuple, no 680
  44. Georges Lefebvre, The French Revolution: From its Origins to 1793 (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2001, ISBN 978-0415253932), 241–44, 269.
  45. Pierre Caron, Les Massacres de Septembre, Paris, FR:En vente à la Maison du livre français, 1935. Retrieved June 25, 2022.
  46. Loomis 76-77.
  47. Loomis, 73–74.
  48. Loomis, 75-76.
  49. Francois Furet and Mona Ozouf (eds.), A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989, ISBN 978-0674177284), 521–22.
  50. Loomis, 83.
  51. Bay, "Marat as Adviser to the First Paris Communes and Deputy of the National Convention," Part 1 Jean-Paul Marat: The People's Friend chapter 8. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  52. David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books, 2006, ISBN 978-0374530730), 189.
  53. Loomis, 130.
  54. Schama, 736.
  55. Schama, 735-737.
  56. Owen Hulatt, Aesthetic and Artistic Autonomy (London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013, ISBN 978-1474222938), 54.
  57. Schama, 742–744.
  58. Schama, 744.
  59. Andress, 191.
  60. Conner 2012, 149.
  61. Francine Du Plessix Gray, At Home with the Marquis De Sade (New York, NY: Random House, 2013, ISBN 978-1594200496).
  62. Kenneth J. Gibson, Killer Doctors The Ultimate Betrayal of Trust (Dumfries, UK: Neil Wilson Publishing, 2012, ISBN 1906476640).
  63. Loomis, 141.
  64. David E. A. Coles, The French Revolution (Altona, Manitoba, CA: Friesen Press, 2014, ISBN 1460251539), 134.
  65. Stephen Miller, Three Deaths and Enlightenment Thought: Hume, Johnson, Marat (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2001, ISBN 978-1611481402), 125.
  66. Philippe-Joseph-Benjamin Buchez, Histoire Parlementaire de la Révolution française, ou Journal des Assemblées Nationales, depuis 1789 jusqu'en 1815, 36 (1838): 230.
  67. Fremont-Barnes, 450-451.
  68. "Where the Statues of Paris were sent to Die,", January 7, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  69. Stephen McLaughlin, Russian & Soviet Battleships (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 20003, ISBN 978-1682477267), 321.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Andress, David. The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France. New York, NY: SFG Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0374530730
  • Asimov, Isaac. Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1982. ISBN 978-0385177719
  • Bay, Ernest Belefort. Jean-Paul Marat; The People's Friend, A Biographical Sketch. Vogt Press, 2008 (original 1901). ISBN 978-1443723626
  • Bianchi, Serge. Marat. "L'Ami du peuple". Paris, FR: Belin Publishing, 2017. ISBN 978-2410003055
  • Coles, David E. A. The French Revolution. Altona, MB: Friesen Press, 2014. ISBN 1460251539
  • Conner, Clifford D. Jean Paul Marat: scientist and revolutionary. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1999. ISBN 978-1573926072
  • Conner, Clifford D. Jean-Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution. London, UK: Pluto Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0745331942
  • Fishman, W. J. "Jean-Paul Marat", History Today 21(5), 1971: 329–337.
  • Furet, Francois, and Mona Ozouf (eds.). A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0674177284
  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. Encyclopedia of the age of political revolutions and new ideologies, 1760–1815, volume 1. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Inc., 2007. ISBN 9780313334450
  • Gérard, Walter. Marat. Paris, FR: Albin Michel, 2012. ASIN B09KNSBVXY
  • Gibson, Kenneth J. Killer Doctors The Ultimate Betrayal of Trust. Dumfries, UK: Neil Wilson Publishing, 2012. ISBN 1906476640
  • Gillispie, Charles Coulston. Science and Polity in France: The End of the Old Regime. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0691118499
  • Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal. Jean Paul Marat: a study in radicalism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1927. ISBN 978-0226305325
  • Gray, Francine Du Plessix. At Home with the Marquis De Sade. New York, NY: Random House, 2013. ISBN 978-1594200496
  • Hulatt, Owen. Aesthetic and Artistic Autonomy. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-1474222938
  • Lefebvre, Georges. The French Revolution: From its Origins to 1793. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2001. ISBN 978-0415253932
  • Loomis, Stanley. Paris in the Terror. New York, NY: Dorset House Publishing Co., Inc., 1990. ISBN 978-0880294010
  • Massin, Jean. Marat. Aix en Provence, FR: Éditions Alinéa, 1988. ISBN 2904631585
  • McLaughlin, Stephen. Russian & Soviet Battleships. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000. ISBN 978-1682477267
  • Miller, Stephen. Three Deaths and Enlightenment Thought: Hume, Johnson, Marat. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-1611481402
  • Schama, Simon. Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. ISBN 978-0394559483
  • Simpson, William, and Martin Jones. Europe 1783–1914. Milton Park, UK: Taylor & Francis, 2015. ISBN 978-1138786530

External links

All links retrieved December 1, 2022.


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