The Obligatory Mandate
Old Regime, a deputy was no more than a mandatory, in the strict sense of the
world. He did not represent France as a whole but was the spokesman of a group
that was reflected in his person. His mission was to defend the interests of his
estate against the encroaching powers of loyal authority and of competing classes.
Since each estate knew its own interests, theoretically, it could predetermine
the mission of its delegate.
To free himself from this restriction, Louis XVI, in convoking the Estates General,
specifically asked the electors to confide in a representative assembly composed
of deputies who would be free from instructions,
a request he was to repeat on 23 June 1789.
In other words, he broke with past tradition, that is, with the mandat impératif
June 1789 Sieyès had already proposed a declaration of principles inviting
the bailliages to free their deputies from "indiscreet mandates" and
suggested that the Constituent Assembly refuse to recognize the mandats impératifs.
 This question was debated
at length by various members of the Constituent Assembly.
Sieyès argued that a mandat impératif would prevent a deputy from
acting for the national good, since he would be limited by his own electoral district.
Representatives, he pointed out, participated in the Assembly not to announce
points of view already formulated by their constituents
but to deliberate and vote freely on their deliberations. At the same time, he
distinguished clearly between democratic and representative government. The people,
he stressed, lacked sufficient education and leisure to occupy themselves with
problems of government. Only representatives elected by them could actually govern
of our own constitutional debates can recognize many of the same assumptions and
arguments for rejecting direct democracy in France. The Constituent Assembly was
seeking to establish, a nation one and indivisible; it justly feared that direct
democracy would stimulate the urban masses to intervene in the legislative process,
or, by encouraging private and local interests, would convert the National Assembly
into a me re congress of plenipotentiaries. Certainly, it had no intention of
reviving the ancient Estates General. Yet, interestingly enough, it had to wrestle
with its collective conscience before adopting the modern doctrine, proposed by
Barère, of nullifying all limitations on its deliberations.
On 8 January 1790 it expressly forbade electoral assemblies to insert into their
minutes or to draft separately a mandat impératif.
This prohibition was formalized in the Constitution of 1791 by Article 2, Title
3, and Article 7, Section 3, chapter 1, Title 3.
Together with the establishment of a property qualification for the suffrage,
it made the constitution essentially a conservative, bourgeois document.
The Cercle Social
conservative constitution and a popular revolution, ho however, are essentially
incompatible. The twin concepts of natural rights and popular sovereignty clashed
radically with political restrictions placed on passive citizens. Furthermore,
thousands of pamphlets, articles, and orations had made a popular mystique out
of the academic speculations of the philosophes.
Bourgeois assemblies might act as if they truly represented the popular will,
but radical journalists, popular orators, and devoted democrats were bound to
challenge the propertied classes and their spokesmen. Within the ranks of the
bourgeoisie itself, reformers, utopians, and disalfected radicals arose to champion
the aspirations of the menu peuple, the sans culottes of Parig and other urban
centers of France. Under the impact of common problems and common ideals, they
began to join together in order to influence the rapidlychanging course of events.
ODe organization which rapidly achieved popu-larity was a society formed to promote
"the will of the people," the Cercle Social.
This club advocated political equality by championing the abolition of distinctions between active and passive citizens; it put its trust in public education, and dreamed of creating a universal brotherhood, les amis de la vérité. Like other utopians, its members believed in human goodness and boldly defended the principles of popular sovereignty. Early in 1790 it. adopted a program that stated, among other things:
The first and principal aim of the Cercle Social is to give the voice of the people all its force, so that it may exercise in all its fullness and unlimited extent the right of surveillance; the only power which it bas never exercised, the only ODe molding general opinion which is always right and all-powerful, the sole power that guarantees its sovereignty, and which it
alone can exercise beneficially by itself.
popularize its program it launched a journal, Bouche de Jer, and staged mass meetings
which drew thousands to its hall. lts first gathering at the Cirque Nationale
on 13 October 1790 attracted some five thousand Parisians and made quite a stir
in the capital.
The academic program of the Cercle Social acquired an immediate expediency shortly
af ter the overthrow of the king. As urban crowds, especially those of the capital,
made known their will by insurrection, mass demonstration, and permanent session,
they began to defend zealously their newly won sovereign powers. The more radical
sections of Paris became ardent promoters of direct and popular democracy.
When their delegates greeted the Convention on 14 July 1793 upon adopting the
new, Jacobin-inspired constitution, they sat with the deputies and deliberated
with them "as memhers of the sovereign body." A number among them carried
this principle of a popular referendum much further: They began to regard the
Convention itself as an assembly for passing laws demanded of it by "the
others proposed the suspension of all laws until sanctioned by the voters in their
Yet others accepted the principle of the mandat impératif.
This right to recall unworthy deputies carried with it the need to judge their conduct in preceding sessions. Judgment, in turn, led to a jealous supervision not only of the laws passed or proposed but of the executive power and its various agents as well, including the generals and the military commissions. Several sections even sent their own envoys to establish contact with enemies of the Convention; others sought to crush these same I enemies. In addition to keeping a close watch on the operations of military authorities, the sections demanded to examine the civic conduct of all public employees. Since the sovereign people had elected members of the constituted authorities, they believed that the right to purge these same authorities resided in the general assemblies of the sections.
purging, supervising, recalling, and initiating the sections, popular societies,
radical joumals, and individual revolutionaries popularized the doctrine of the
peoples' sovereignty. Much of this resulted from pragmatic experience, from concrete
responses gained in the course of daily events. Some of the popular leaders were
undoubtedly familiar with Rousseau, Mably, Morelly and other writers who directly
or by implication had raised many of the questions which had now become burning
issues. Many followed the debates in the national assemblies as these questions
were raised. The problem of power had to be resolved concretely, but its exercise
required a theoretical justification, especially by those who traditionally never
shared in its operation.
Of all the revolutionary groups active in Paris, no group championed the idea of direct democracy more consistently than did the followers of Jacques Roux, Jean Varlet, and Théophile Leclerc, known as the Enragés. Students of the Revolution are familiar with their struggle for the maximum, for the conversion of the assignat into fiat money, for a stringent law against speculators and hoarders - in short, for the inauguration of a policy of economic terror against enemies of the revolutionary government. Less well known, perhaps, is their hostility to representative government as such - to the parliamentary system itself. Each of the three revolutionaries had supreme
confidence in the natural goodness of the people; each suspected the motives of the deputies in three of the national assemblies of Prance. Peuillant, Girondin or Montagnard; moderate or revolutionary; indulgent or terrorist-the Enragés fought them all.
differences existed among the Enragés-and, at times, these became quite
sharp-they were united in their mistrust of representative government. They attempted
to involve the people directly in politics, to sanction no law unless it had been
referred first to the electors, to delimit the authority of the deputies, and
to extend the scope and power of the sans-culottes through their sectional assemblies.
As late as 10 March 1795, (20 Ventose, Year III), Varlet wrote proudly from bis
cell in Pléssis prison that he had advocated granting "unlimited power
to the sovereign people."
Roux's attack on the Constitution of 1793 had led to bis eventual arrest and that
of his followers. Af ter conducting an exhaustive interrogation of bis partisans
in section Gravilliers on 3 December 1793 (13 Primaire, Year II), the revolutionary
committee of the section accused Roux of subversive conduct and of having advocated
the violent overthrow of the currently constituted authorities. It charged: "He
mounted the tribune only to sar that the people were sovereign, that they had
the right to expel 'les hommes en place' (that is, the politicians], that their
sovereignty ought to be established, and that they could pronounce themselves
on all (the acts] of their mandatories."
The same accusation could have been leveled at Théophile Leclerc with equal
justification. Although the revolutionary committee of section Halle au Blé
stated that Leclerc's opinions, character, and revolutionary conduct were unknown,
it could easily have become acquainted with bis poli tics had it taken the trouble
to read bis joumal, L 'Ami du peuple.
three revolutionaries, Jean Varlet concerned himself more systematically with
the problem of direct democracy than did either Roux or Leclerc.This
resulted partly from bis own disenchanting experience with various factions in
the three national assemblies and partly from bis sympathy with Parisian crowds,
which he of ten exhorted and sometimes led. The political support he so frequently
received from the sans-culottes encouraged bis belief in the natural goodness
of common men. A Parisian by birth,
he came from a family in easy circumstances, which enabled him to attend the College
of Harcourt. When the Revolution broke out, he welcomed it enthusiastically, composed
patriotic songs, addressed
crowds in the Palais Royal, and bore petitions in defense of popular causes. He
was present at Versailles when the Oeclaration of the Rights of Man was adopted,
and he helped prepare the Champ de Mars for the Festival of the Federation in
the summer of 1790.
Varennes, Varlet began to bear petitions and to speak out sharply against "the
With the year he became widely known through bis public address from the Terrasse
des Feuillants in the gardens of the Palais Royal, bis activity in the Jacobin
Club, and bis agitation in section Roi de Sicile.
The massacre of the Champ de Mars on 16 July 1791 intensified bis hatred of Lafayette
and, at the same time, increased bis devotion to revolutionary methods and procedures.
On 29 May 1792 he sharply attacked Lafayette as a "villain" and a "traitor."
In bis address to the Jacobins of about the same time, Varlet denounced the court,
the financiers, and "lying ministers." He was especially bitter against
"the Nero of Nancy" (that is, Lafayette) whom he accused of propping
up a tottering throne in order to satisfy bis own "immeasurable ambition."
'fhe burden of bis address, however, was to urge the Jacobins to become more responsive
to petitioners and common citizens who looked to them for help. The habit of enjoying
power ruined men, he wamed. The danger was that a new aristocracy of office would
succeed the old aristocracy of heraldry. One war of avoiding this threat, he held,
was to extend the circle of electors and to introduce a frequent rotation of offices.
Informal gatherings and frequent mingling of patriotic deputies with ordinary
citizens would break down the artificial harriers between the two and enable each
to leam from the other.
In other words, he hoped to make the Jacobins more democratic.
20 June 1792 Varlet presented a petition to the National Assembly. He had been
elected to the delegation of twenty by demonstrators from faubourg Saint-Antoine
and the more radical sections who were commemorating the third anniversary of
the Tennis Court Qath. "The people, the true sovereign is here to judge the
(traitorsJ," the orator began.
This petition was to serve as justification for the attack on the Tuileries -
a dressrehearsal for the insurrection against the monarchy. On 6 August Varlet
appeared again before the National Assembly in the name of the Fédérés
who had adopted a petition on the Champ de Mars. Once again he demanded
the abdication of the king, the dismissalof nob les from army staffs, the extension
of the suffrage, a law against speculation and boarding, and other revolutionary
measures of a similar nature.
De "revolution" of 10 August 1792
days later, the insurrectionary Commune of Paris, together with the more radical
sections, overthrew the monarchy of Louis. Here was concrete evidence, if Varlet
needed any, of the power and energy of bis sectionnaires. The people had spoken
forthrightly, without equivocation. Should not their representatives carry out
the people's will? Varlet appealed to the deputies to recognize the pristine powers
of popular sovereignty and to become what they were originally meant to be-fiere
mandatories of the people's will. "Mandatories of the People," he importuned,
"the most glorious of our prerogatives lies precisely in the right to express
our will." The election of electors to elect deputies to the National Convention
was a me re shadow of liberty. Since deputies were mandatories and not representatives,
they had to follow the line of conduct prescribed for them, he repeated.
a state where the people are all," Varlet continued, "the first act
of sovereignty is to elect; the second, to define 1:he powers, the mandates, of
those elected." It was, however, on the question of power, of the "mandate"
of deputies, that Varlet accused the representatives of becoming "as despotic
as the king whom they had replaced." He saw a tyranny being established without
limits, of deputies without commissions who could easily substitute their own
particular wills for the will of the people. Varlet then suggested a resolution
to limit the powers of deputies and to invest delegates of the primary assemblies
with the right to discuss all measures of public interest. He proposed an additional
article to the Declaration of the Rights of Man stating that. the sovereignty
of the people was a natural right; that the people ought to elect all public functionaries
without any intermediaries and ought to discuss their own interests; that the
people draw up mandates for their mandatories to pass into laws; that they reserve
the right to recall and to punish those who went beyond their powers or who betrayed
their interests; and finally, that they examine all decrees (except those governing
exceptional circumstances) which were not to be recognized as having the force
of law until they had been sanctioned by the sovereign people in their primary
assemblies. Thus Varlet
suggested that there should be but one power in France, that of the people in
their primary assemblies and in their mandatories; the execution of laws should
be confined to an executive composed of a small number of functionaries and revocable
at the people's pleasure.
to carry out these rights and duties, Varlet proposed the creation of a popular
institution to be known as "magistrats du souverain." This association
was to be composed of an "elite of patriots," men tested and proven
in their posts as legislators or municipal administrators.
Such a society
of incorruptibles was to be a guarantee of the people's will, constantly exercising
an implacable watch over the machinations of their deputies. He assumed, obviously,
th at an elite band of patriots would not develop interests of their own that
might be fundamentally different Erom those of the people over whose concerns
they were to watch. Nor did Varlet's proposal guaran
tee that these magistrats would not combine with the deputies of the people to promote their joint interests in the state. Yet, before condemning this proposal, it should be remembered that Varlet was struggling with a most difflcult problem. He had seen two national legislatures "betray the confidence of the people" (from bis point of view) when the Convention played out its role. On the other hand, this attempt to guarantee the purity of the original constitution and to prevent a domineering officialdom from extending its sway over the electorate was a problem which troubled a number of bis contemporaries.
It was not long before Varlet attempted to carry out in practice an insurrection staged by a self-appointed elite. The scarcity of bread, the de cline of the assignat, the raging inflation, the growing unemployment-all had created a crisis by the winter of 1793. Chaumette, as the chief representative of the Commune, summarized the feeling of the sans-culottes:
The poor, just like rich, and even more than the rich, have made the Revolution. Everything bas changed around the rOOf; they alone remain in the same condition and have gained nothing from the Revolution but the right to complain of their misery. . . . The Revolution in procuring liberty for the rich bas given them a great deal; it bas also given liberty and equality to the poor; but in order to live freely, one must live; and if areasonabie proportion no longer exist between the wages of the poor and the price of goods necessary for existence, the poor can no longer live.
misery of the urban poor was given added poignancy when those in authority callously
tumed their backs on petitioners seeking help. A delegation of women asking to
discuss the problem of shortages with the Jacobins was tumed away amid tumult
and confusion. Demonstrations
and riots broke out on 24 and 25 February. Small shops were invaded and their
contents were sold forcibly at prices set by the various leaders of the action.
Order was temporarily restored, but the demands of war continued to aggravate
the food crisis. By the middle of March, Dumouriez was to suffer bis disastrous
fout at Neerwinden, which exposed bis friends among the Girondins to further attacks
by Varlet and bis friends.
had been ill during the latter months of 1792 but had recovered sufficiently by
January 1793 to sing a hymn of bis own composition to the Jacobin Club.
By early march he had joined a group of Fédérés bent on removing
the Girondists and closing down the joumals of two of their spokesmen, Brissot
and Gorsas, wh om they charged with betrayal of France's interests. On 9 March
they declared themselves to be in a state of insurrection and sent invitations
to the more radical sections to unite with them against the "factions"
in the Convention. The
attempt to rally the sections and the Commune failed, but not one of the participants
was punished for bis fale in th is abortive uprising.
The Insurrection of 31 May - 2 June 1793
week later Varlet publicly regretted the failure of bis insurrection as he spoke
again from the Terrasse des Feuillants (in the gardens of Palais Royal) and to
the Jacobins. "Moderation is out of season toady," he declared, "insurrection
is the most sacred of duties."
By 27 March Varlet, as secretary of bis section, taak the initiative in calling
upon bis sister sections to elect delegates to a centra! committee which would
sit at the Evêché (the archbishop's palace) and discuss means "to
save the republic."
It was this group which created the "Central Revolutionary Committee"
of nine men that overturned the Gironde in the insurrection of 31 May-2 June.
Varlet was placed at its head. On 13 May 1793 Varlet delivered an important address
to the Jacobins:
One truth is weIl demonstrated: Man by his very nature, full of arrogance in the higher positions, inclines necessarily toward despotism; we sense now that we must hold in arrest, in check, the established authorities; without which they become all-oppressive in power. Let us not seek to counterbalance them byeach other; all counterweight which is not that of the people itself is false. The Sovereign ought always to direct the social body; it is worth nothing when someone else represents it.
experience under the Girondin-directed Convention only reaffirmed bis conviction
that unless the sovereign people controlled their deputies a new despotism would
arise on the ruins of the aid. Any attempt to limit the deputies' power by imposing
same system of checks and balances was doomed in advance. Only the people themselves
could serve as a counterweight to the usurping representatives. "Whatever
our mandatories cannot or will not do, let us do ourselves; let us give these
gentlemen same lessons in republicanism," he continued.
In his own version of the Droits de l'Homme, he applied the principle of direct democracy to embrace all countries. Sovereignty, he wrote, appertained to all nations; it could be delegated "but never, never be represented." The established authorities we re only emanations of the sovereign nations and had to remain subordinate to them. He essentially repeated his earlier proposals that direct elections should be held, that the electorate should collectively express their views to their commissioners, and that the electorate should "examine, refuse, or sanction the decrees which the mandatories propose to give the force of laws, and. . . render them executable." Varlet added "the right of citizens gathered en masse in the state to review, improve, modify, [or] change the social contract when it pleases them." This was further elaborated in Article 23, which stated:
When a sovereign nation constitutes itself into a social state, its diverse sections send deputies invested with explicit rnandates; assembied in common, these agents of power elucidate the intentions of their constituents, convert their propositions into laws; if the majority accept them, these fundamental conventions frame a whole, called the Social Contract.
Varlet did not limit his constitution to a purely political process. Direct democracy
was not merely a political conception but a means to impose the people's will,
by military force if necessary.
If Varlet thought about the practical matter of determining who would judge when
insurrection was necessary, and against whom, th ere is no record of bis conclusions.
Perhaps bis "elite of patriots" was to make
the final decision!
bold championship of insurrection and popular democracy caused bis expulsion from
the Jacobins a few days af ter bis address (18 May 1793). The excuse was a little
shamefaced-an "excess of civisme (civic conduct)."
Less than a week later, on 24 May, Varlet was arrested with Hébert by the
Girondin Commission of Twelve, only to be liberated by the outraged Commune and
the radical sections in time for the decisive events of 31 May - 2 June. It was
he who signed the order to sound the tocsin and launch the insurrection.
yet the success of the sections and Commune and the replacement of the Girondin
leadership by the Montagnard did not satisfy Varlet. His committee had been subordinated
to a majority of moderates, where he lost whatever influence he was developing
on the eve of the
decisive events. In the fall of the 1794 Varlet analyzed the events of 2 June 1793 and came to the conclusion that "the true republicans" in the Central Revolutionary Committee (Comité central révolutionaire) had been emasculated by "the most destructive of factions . . . the league of Caligula," that is, the Robespierristes. He wrote:
"The insurrectionary committee [that is, the Central Revolutionary Committee] contained the germ of a revolutionary government, conceived secretly at the start. The false insurgents substituted Robespierre for Brissot; for federalism, a revolutionary dictatorship, decreed in the name of public safety. As for me, I was toa ho nest to be initiated [into it]; I was set aside."
Varlet possibly had intended to go beyond the parliamentary system, if one can believe bis retrospective analysis. Whether he had planned to substitute the Central Revolutionary Committee for the Convention at the time ofthe raIl of the Gironde is difficult to say. There seems to be no evidence that he had consciously attempted to influence the other members of the committee in this direction. It is more likely that his disillusionment with the Jacobin dictatorship made him see the possibilities of the Central Revolutionary Committee as a nucleus for that direct democracy for which he had launched the committee in the first place.
Arrest and Inprisonment
On 17 September 1793 he made a provocative and ill-timed speech in the Convention attacking the decree to limit sectional assemblies to two a décade and indignantly rejecting the proposed subsidy of forty sous for the pooler citizens. "In a free state the people cannot par themselves to exercise their rights," he declared, and he refused the proferred forty sous "in the name of the sans-culottes of Paris.", His challenge of the Montagnards led to his arrest on the following dar and his imprisonment in the Madelonnettes prison "for having made a counterrevolutionary proposal." The young revolutionary seized the only weapon left him, his pen, and issued a stirring appeal against his detractors.
He who on 21 June 1791, on 10 August, on 31 of May conspired with the people against royal and legislative tyranny, is he an agent of Pitt, of Cobourg, capable of exciting uprisings for them? . . . Reply, Collot d'Herbois,
Robespierre, . . . Jacobins, Cordeliers, and rou, sans-culottes. . . . I am a
patriot and am in irons. . . .
I have suffered in prison, forgotten and alone, af ter ha ving sacrificed all for my paar country-parents, friends, fortune. . . .
Varlet was expelled from the Jacobins, from the Cordeliers. Varlet is an intriguer, Varlet is paid off, Varlet is driven out, Varlet this, Varlet that. The brisk fountainhead of slander is discharged, flows, and never stops. Sovereign dispensers of blame or of public favor, petty actors in the nights, what are your names? Come forth. What have rou do ne during the Revolution; what are your title-deeds? . . . Why don't rou bring charges publicly before the revolutionary tribunal?
dramatic appeal aroused his friends in his own section of Droits de l'Homme. On
5 October 1793 the general assembly resolved that there wasno basis for his arrest
and urged the Committee of General Security to release him.
By the end of the month, other sections, as weIl as individual Jacobins, joined
the appeal. Hébert. who had denounced him in the past, now jointed the
others. On 14 November 1793 (24 Brumaire, Year 11) Varlet was finally released.
possible that his imprisonment had a sobering effect on the young revolutionary,
for during the months when the government committees were preparing their attack
on the Hébertises and the Dantonists, Varlet remained silent.
Moreover, he might have sensed that he was no langer in a position to struggle
openly against the Terror. Nor is it impossible that he had made his
peace with the Committee of Public Safety and the Jacobins, despite what he was
to sar later, af ter Thermidor. For immediately af ter the attempted
assassination of Collot d'Herbois on 22 May 1793 (3 Prairial, Year II) a number of demonstrators marched through the all of the Convention hearing fiery resolutions and warm addresses of support for the government. Among the addresses was one adopted by section Droits de l'Homme which hadbeen drafted and signed by Varlet as vice-secretary of the section.
earlier opposition to the dictatorship of the Committee of Public Safety, however,
did not save him from the vengeance of the Thermidorians. On 5 September 1794
he was arrested again and imprisoned in Pléssis prison. Within a month
he published a defense of the insurrection of 31 May and of bis own fale as chairman
of the Committee of Nine. He explained that he had been arrested because of bis
defense of tbe principle of direct democracy, and he attacked "a suicidal
national government" in favor of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
It was not necessary to seek the causes of current evils beyond the origin of
revolutionary government, he stated. This "revolutionary dictatorship, decreed
in the name of public safety," was responsible for the difficulties the Republic
denouncing the terrorists Varlet acknowledged bis love of moderation, a term of
opprobrium that revolutionaries used to attack their more conservative opponents.
Yet, he did not repudiate bis own revolutionary past. "The horrible dictatorship
of Robespierre does not at all justify the tyranny of Brissot," he wrote.
Furthermore, he challenged the defenders of revolutionary government to give a
precise definition of the term "revolutionary government," and, in contrast
to its defenders, admitted that he loved moderation because it made
him "human, tolerant, reflective." As for the Jacobin Club, he saw two types of people frequenting its meetings: those who paid dues and spoke in its halls, and those who did not par, "the truc people, the public, which is mute in its galleries." The deputies, he warned, controlled the club and were conspiring to organize another 9 Thermidor against the Convention. He appealed to the people to destroy their tyrants: "Awake! Show Energy; dare all; destroy the tyranny."
bis repudiation of the Terror government, Varlet refused to apologize for bis
fale during the decisive events of the Revolution. At the same time he begged
the Thermidorians to bring him to trial. In a letter to the Committee of General
Security he again admitted th at he had advocated "the unlimited power of
the sovereign people within the committee of insurrection of 31 May',
(that is, within the Central Revolutionary Committee sitting in the Evêché).
The Thermidorians, ho wever, remained deaf to bis pleas and refused to try him.
Instead, they transferred him from the Pléssis prison to La Force. Af ter
the insurrection of Prairial (22 and 23 May 1795), Varlet was transferred to the
Bicêtre prison with "other agitators where they could be guarded more
closely." Not until
late October 1795, that is, af ter the journées of 4-6 October 1795 (12-14
Vendémiaire, Year IV), after which the Convention turned to the left, was
he finally released. His papers were returned to him on 3 November 1795 (13 Brumaire,
in prison, Varlet had composed and published another brochure. lts slogan was
most revealing: "Long live the dictatorship of the Rights of. Man."
He attacked the "egoists" who turned the profits of nature to their
own selfish ends. "Democrats, let us oppose these exclusive privileges,"
he appealed. Having seen three legislatures come and go, not one of which had
substantially improved the condition of the sans-culottes, Varlet reacted with
growing suspicion to all representative government. If deputies of all shades,
right or left, found themselves unable or unwilling to legislate for the benefit
of the people, perhaps there was something inherent in the parliamentary system
itself which prevented, the sans-culottes from reaping the fruits of their revolution.
Perhaps representative government, as such, could not express the general will.
This will resided in sectional assemblies, in democratic clubs, in revolutionary
and civil committees of the menu peuple. By imposing their will on the deputies,
by making their representatives fiere stewards of their inalienable sovereignty,
by establishing, in short, "a dictatorship of the Rights of Man," only
thus could the sans-culottes obtain their rights.
From Revolutionairy to Bonapartist
confinements in the various prisons of Paris had finally undermined Varlet's revolutionary
will. His appeals for justice reflect a curious blend of defiance and indignant
repudiation of government by terror. Interspersed among bis requests to be heard
are pathetic appeals for mercy. In sharp contrast to bis political brochures is
an abstract philosophical essay written in Pléssis prison which outlines
in great detail plans for a temple dedicated to young and old where virtue and
civic conduct would be taught and honored.
Yet he was not totally broken, if the few shreds of evidence can cast any light
on bis role during these trying months. Together with bis fellow prisoners, he
defiantly repudiated the charge of the Thermidorians that the unsuccessful insurrection
of Germinal (the so-called hunger insurrection) had been a "conspiracy."
Once again he invoked the right of free men to rise against oppression.
he himself failed to "rise" when Babeuf launched bis Conspiracy of Equals
in 1796. Although he was acquainted with a number of leaders of the Electoral
Club, which met in the Panthéon, unlike Babeuf, Buonarotti, and others
he took no significant part in the political events of the day. Only when the
Jacobin Club was reopened in 1799 did Varlet make a brief appearance, to address
its members on the problem of the public debt and to condemn lotteries as being
destructive of public morality.
For the next decade and more he seems to have abandoned all political activity and to have quit the capital for the town of Meaux. Although Napoleon's police maintained a careful watch over potentially dangerousformer revolutionaries, they no longer found it necessary to keep Varlet under close surveillance. Had they known bis new political sentiments they would have had no cause to trouble themselves on bis account, for Varlet had become a Bonapartist. When Napoleon returned from Elba, Varlet wrote a fable in which he appealed to bis hero to stop "the Tartars" at the gatçs of Paris.[8O] Whether anyone read this, however, is doubtful, since the verses were not published until 1831.
Varlet fared during the Bourbon Restoration we do not know, but somehow he managed
to survive. Not until the overthrow of Charles X did he take up bis pen again.
The July Revolution found him in Nantes. lts citizens gent him to tbe electoral
college and, in return,
he warmly championed the port's rnaritime interests. In a number of brochures
he urged France to struggle for freedom of the seas and to model herself on British
maritime might. Perhaps
bis last public act was a prayer composed for the young and directed to "Nature's
God" and to free mankind; appropriately enough, it was dedicated to the memory
of Voltaire. Whatever the vicissitudes of Varlet's politics, he remained a deist
to the end.
A man with a “hot head and a good hart”
is one to conclude Erom a study of this man and bis ideas? Obviously, there are
two Varlets-the one young, militant, enthusiastic before Thermidor; the other,
less fiery, less zealous, a bit withdrawn after bis long prison experience. It
is the younger Varlet who is the more interesting of the two, if only because
he reflects so weIl the popular nature of the French Revolution. In bis letter
to the Committee of General Security dated 16 July 1795 (28 Messidor, Year 111)
he described himself as possessed of a "hot head and good heart," a
laconic but penetrating analysis of bis character and sentiments. Varlet was,
af ter all, only twenty-nine when he first saw the inside
of a prison (younger by a year if one counts bis brief detention by the Commission of Twelve). His vers es, bis songs, bis patriotic orations all reflect bis youth and romantic spirit.
the same time, it must be admitted that bis idealism was tempered by contact with
the Parisian sans-culottes. There is no doubt that he learned much Erom them.
On 13 May 1793 he paid bis respect to the petites gens of Parig in the following
If I can flatter myself for having conceived any useful ideas, I should thank the People Sans-Culottes for them. For Cour years, always on public squares, among crowds of people, among the sans-culotterie, among the ragged wh om I love, I learned that innocently and without coercion the poor devils of the garret reason more surely, more boldly than the best gentlemen, the great speech-makers, the groping savants. If they [the latter] wish to attain true knowiedge, let them go as I among the people.
is no wonder, then, that he endowed the people with total political virtue and
hoped to make them the sovereign power of France.
addition to supporting the mandat impératij; he enthusiastically embraced
the doctrine of social equality. A warm partisan of Rousseau, in whose philosophy
he found bis own justification for democracy, Varlet was not an atypical product
of the Enlightenment. He opposed tyranny wh ether it was justified by the apology
of maintaining "lawand order" or by an appeal to "revolutionary
necessity." It was only af ter he had been broken by long confinement in
the prisons of the Thermidorians, and af ter the retreat of the Revolution itself,
that he embraced Bonapartism.
all, Varlet was a man of action. Not only was he a popular orator and a stimulating
pamphleteer, but he was, primarily, a successful organizer. Though bis ill-considered
attempt to launch an insurrection in March 1793 smacked not only of romantic delusion
but, perhaps, of political adventurism, few doubted bis loyalty and devotion to
the Revolution. Serious revolutionaries, about to place their own lives in jeopardy,
would hardly have en do wed him with the sensitive post of president of the Evêché
Committee (on the eve of 31 May 1793) had they not possessed complete confidence
in bis devotion and ability. The Thermidorians, on the other hand, sensed bis
basic opposition to their course. Though they were aware of bis rejection of terror
and bis championship of moderation, bis poli tics and theirs had little in common.
They had every right to mistrust him-for the very same reason that the revolutionaries
trusted him. As long as there remained a possibility of another Germinal or Prairial,
so long would a politically active Varlet continue to be dangerous.
His political inheritance
Because Varlet was less than a philosophe, yet more than a sans-culotte, he remains interesting today. Active revolutionaries, by virtue of their all-consuming activity, leave few records behind. This is especially true of the lower echelons. Fewer still transmit an organized body of thought. Varlet, in this respect, is unique; for in him is embodied both word and deed. While promoting the political act he was at the same time analyzing it. Such a combination is rare in the history of a revolution.
for bis concept of direct democracy, it is difficult to accept it in the light
of history, which repudiated both the ideal and its bearer af ter 1793. Given
the precarious military situation, the prirnitive state of communications, the
low literacy rate, the political inexperience of the sans-culottes, and the zealous
and intolerant factional atmosphere, it is difficult to see how direct democracy
could have worked in practice in revolutionary France. The political tendency
was toward centralization, not fragmentation. Apart from the fact that the Jacobins
represented the class interest of the rising bourgeoisie (in a general, historic
way), they stood forth as bold champions of all revolutionary France struggling
against reactionary Europe. Varlet, and all other defenders of popular democracy,
whether they willed it or not, reftected a diversionary program.
it is conceivable that Varlet's "dictatorship of the Rights of Man"
might have been carried out had the active militants among the sans-culotterie
gained a rapid political education. This, of course, presuppose an ever growing
movement extending from the capital and reaching the vast majority of the 44,000
communes of France. It would have meant a jealous supervision of the deputies
in the Convention (or any other parliamentary body), constant referendums on legislative
measures, the recall of recalcitrant representatives, the initiation of legislation
by means of petition or joint resolution, and the creation of a political party
system to champion the program of groups as they differentiated themselves in
the body politic.
such a program to have succeeded, however, revolutionary France would have had
to be what it was not. Either it would have had to become the Geneva of Rousseau's
dar, or it would have had to become the state of the future where modern technology
makes possible (but only possible) the direct political participation of every
individual citizen. Perhaps direct democracy may be realized in the future. Humanity
bas evolved diverse political farms to express its collective will. If this method
should be society's war of goveming itself tomorrow, Jean Varlet will have contributed
a modest share to this furore.
B.N., LC2 649, La chronique du mois ou les cahiers patriotiques (Paris,
1792), 4, an article written by Nicolas de BonneviIle, editor of the above joumal
and cofounder with Claude Fauchet of the Cercle Social, the significance of which
will be discussed below (de Bonneville's emphasis).
2. The term "mandat impératif" refers to the obligation imposed byelectors upon their dele gates to vote in a predetermined manner upon questions considered in advance.
3. Camille Koch, Les Origines françaises de la prohibition du mandat impératif (Nancy,1905), 12. In 1321 delegates to Estates General had to refer to their mandates before replying to questions posed by the king. In 1468 delegates to the Estates General were given powers only to present their cahiers (grievances). Throughout the middle ages and into modem times as weIl, electors of towns demanded that their delegates consult them before voting on any matter (ibid., 13).
4. The call of 24 January 1789 stated: "His Majesty is convinced that the confidence owed a representative assembly of the whole nation would be impeded if deputies are given any personal instruction to halt or trouble the course of deliberations" (ibid., 18).
5. Réimpression de l'ancien Moniteur depuis la réunion des Etats-Généraux, jusqu'au consulat, mai 1789-novembre 1799, 32 vals. (Paris: 1840-1845), 1, no. 10, 20-24 June. Article 6 held: "His Majesty declares that, during the following sessions of the Estates General, he will not allow that the cahiers or mandates ever be considered as being imperatifs; they are to be considered only as simpte instructions limited by the conscience and free opinion of deputies whom one shall have chosen."
6. A.P., ed. M. J. Mavidal and M. E. Laurent, Series 1, 90 vols., (Paris: Librairie Administrative de Paul du Pont, 1879-continuing), 8:207.
7. For the arguments of Talleyrand and Barère, see A.P., 8:200-203, 205; Moniteur, 1, no. 15 (6-8 July 1789).
8. A.P., 8:592-97; Moniteur, 1, no. 54, (8 September 1789). "I conclude that each deputy is the direct deputy of bis bailliage, and mediatory deputy of the nation; from which [follows] the title of representative of the nation," he explained.
9. Even Talleyrand admitted that deputies had obligations of conscience to their constituents and suggested that they appeal to the Jatter to free them from this obligation. Jérome Pétion agreed on the necessity of establishing representative govemment only because the people could not act directly. If they could, he admitted, there would be no Deed for representatives or delegates, who could become dangerous ("Je dirai plus, ils seraient dangereux, A.P., 8:581).
10. A.P., 11:200.
11. The mandat impératif has a history that stretches from Rousseau to de Gaulle, as the following brief quotes indicate: "Sovereignty cannot be represented, for. the same reason that it cannot be alienated. It consists essentially in the general wilt, and the will cannot be
represented. . .. The deputies of the people, therefore, are not and cannot be its representatives; they are only its commissioners; they can conclude nothing definitely. Every law that the people personally do not ratify is null and void; it is no law at all" Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du Contrat Social, in The Political Writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 2 vols., ed. C. E. Vaughan [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915], 2:96). "The nation from which alone all powers emanate, cannot exercise them by delegation. The French Constitution is representative. . ." (Article 2, Title 3; the Constitution of 3 September 1791). "The representatives elected by the departments are not the representatives of a particular department, but of the whole nation, and cannot be given any mandate" (Article 7. Section 3, chapter i, Title 3; the Constitution of 3 September 1791). "Every citizen has an equal right to concur in the formation of the law and in the election of bis mandatories or agents" (Article 29; Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen, 24 June 1793). "The members of the legislative body are not representatives which elected them, but of the whole nation, and one may not give them any mandate" (Article 42, Title 5; the Constitution of 22 August 1795). "Every mandat impératif is null and void." (Article 27; the Constitution of 4 October 1958).
12. Alfred Cobban, in The Sodal Interpretation of the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964), challenges this traditional view and argues that it was largely a revolution against "an embryo capitalism," signifying the, triumph of the land-owning classes. In reply to this view, see the following reviews: Jeffry Kaplow in American Historital Review 70, no. 4, (July 1965): 1094-96; Leo Gershoy in Journal of Modern History 37, no. 2 (June 1965): 242-43; and Crane Brinton in History and Theory 5, no. 3 (1966): 315-20.
13. Eric Thompson, Popular Sovereignty and the Frenth Constituent Assembly, 1780-91 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1952), vii. In addition to Thompson and Koch (cited above), the following touch on some aspect of the general will and its relation to direct democracy: Léon Ameline, L'idée de la souveraineté d'après les écrivains français du XVIIe siècle (Paris; Imprimerie Henri Joude, 1904);
Jean Jacques Chavalier, "Cours d'histoire des idées politiques" (Paris, 1957, an unpublished doctoral dissertation); Ernst Cassirer, The Question of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, tr. from the German by peter Gay (New Vork: Columbia University Press, 1954); Bertram de Jouvenel, Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good, tr. from the French by J. F. Huntington (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957); A. D. Lindsay, The Modern Democratic State (London: Oxford University Press, 1947); Joan McDonald, Rousseau and the French Revolution, 1762-1791 (London: University of London and Athlone Press, 1965).
14. B.N., Lc-2 319, Bouche de fer, Cercle Social, 2 vols. (Pans, 1790); Br.M., R. 155 (5), Programme du Cercle Social pour la confédération universelle des amis de la vérité (Paris, 1791), 1.
15. B.N., LC2 317, Bouche deler (Paris, October 1790). Before long, enemies of the Cercle Social dubbed its newspaper "la bouche d'enfer" ("the mouth of heli")!
16. When, on 13 March 1793, a citizen ofsection Pathéon Français told his section's assembly th at "'We are menaced with a dictator,' the assembly rose and swore to stab [the word is "poignarder"] all dictators, protectors, tribunes, triumvirs, regulators, or all others, under whatever denomination it may be, who might tend to destroy the sovereignty of the people" (A.N., A.D. XVI, 70, p. 37, quoted by Albert Soboul in Les Sans-Culottes parisiens en l'an II: Mouvement populaire et gouvernement révolutionnaire 2 juin 1793-9 Thermidor an II [Paris, Librairie Clavreuil, 1958], 506, n. 3). Unless otherwise identified, the following quotations are from the above work. On 15 June 1793 the radical Jacobin François Chabot declared: "One great principle must never be ignored in a democratic Constitution: It is that the people must do for themselves all th at is possible for them to do" (Moniteur 16, no. 168 [17 June 1793]).
17. A commissioner of section Contrat Social stated: "'The Convention is composed only of men paid to pass laws demanded of them, and when decrees do not benefit [us] they [the deputies] should proceed to the neKt order of business'" (B.N., Lb40 1781, p. 509, n. 20). The Convention itselfhad adopted a resolution that there could be no constitution unless it were first accepted by the people (Moniteur, 14, no. 266 [22 September 1792)).
18. A.N., B I, 15; and A.N., F-7 4718, p. 510, nn 25 and 26. On 2 November 1792 the general assembly of section Piques resolved that "we alone should dictate our laws; their [the deputies'] special task is to propose them to us" (B.N., Lb-4O 487, p. 511, n. 30).
19. On 25 August 1792 the general assembly of section Marché des Innocents held that "deputies shall be revocable at the will of their departments" and that "public functionaries shall be revocable by their constituents whose resolutions they shall be bound to carry out" (B.N., Lb4O 3166, p. 521, n. 83). Section Bonne NouveIle held that the right "to recall their delegates [was] imprescriptible" (A.D.S., 4 AZ 698, p. 522, n. 84). On 8 September 1792 section Droits de l'Homine declared th at it reserved the right to recall deputies "if in the course
of their session they rendered themselves suspect of uncivic conduct" (B. V .C., MS 120). The same dar section Poissonnière demanded that the constitution include the principle of recall of those elected to office "at the will of the primary assemblies" (B.N., Lb-4O 2068, p. 522, n. 87). Section Réunion declared "that it expressly reserved the right to recall elected deputies, if in the course of their activities they committed any act which rendered them suspect of uncivic conduct or of seeking to introduce into France a government contrary to liberty and equality" (B.N., Lb4O 2098, p. 522, n. 88).
20. On 29 August 1793 section Halle au Blé solemnly affirmed "that only the sovereign [people] are fit to scrutinize the members of the constituted powers which they themselves have chosen" (B.N., Lb-4O 1873, p. 525, n. 103). At the beginning of the Year II (September 1793), section Observatoire recalled again "that the sovereignty of the people comprises necessarily the right to recall its unfaithful
representatives and all public functionaries unworthy of its confidence" (A.D.S., D 933, p. 526, n. 104).
21. On 14 December 1792 section Bon Conseil resolved "to watch without respite the activities of the executive power in all its wars of administration" (A.D.S., D 916, p. 526, n. 106). The resolution was supported by section Quatre Nations, but it was opposed by the more moderate section Gardes Françaises as tending "to weaken the individual responsibilities of ministers" (B.N., Lb4O 1844, p. 527, n. 107). On 15 April 1793 section Bon Conseil reminded Antoine Santerre, commander of the Parisian National Guard, that he derived his powers
from freemen who would never be commanded like slaves (B.N., Lb4O 1964 , p. 527, n. 108).
22. Sections Fraternité, Molière, and La Fontaine sent envoys to Normandy and were denounced for this action by the Commune on 12 July 1793. Section Quatre Vingt Douze had sent commissioners to the departments of l'Eure and Calvados, as was reported in the Jacobin Club, 12 July 1793 (P. J. B. Buchez and P. C. Roux eds., Histoire parlementaire de la Révolution française, 40 vols. (Paris: Paulin, Libraire, 1834-1838], 28:306-7). On the other hand, section Gardes Françaises dispatched its commissioners to Tours for the purpose of combating the rising counterrevolution, 17 June 1793 (A.N., F7 477416, p. 527, n. 110).
23. "It appertains to the sovereign power alone to purge members of the constituted authorities whom it alone has chosen," wrote section Halle au Blé on 29 September 1793 (B.N., Lb4O 1875, p. 529, n. 120). Section Observatoire held that sovereignty entailed the right to recall not only unfaithful representatives but "all public functionaries unworthy of its confidence" and demanded of the Convention
that it find "a means to recall all public functionaries who betrayed their duty" A.D.S., D 933, p. 530, n. 121). Other aspects of popular sovereignty-such as the permanence of sectional meetings, the degree of autonomy enjoyed byeach section, the right to insurrection,
open deliberations and open voting, the employment of collective petitions, and the function of popular societies-are discussed by Soboul, Les Sansculottes parisiens, 531-58, 567-70, 619-21, 637-39, and 647-48. See also Richard Cobb's discussion in his authoritative Les Armées révolutionnaires: Instrument de la Terreur dans les départements, avril 1793-Floreal an 11, 2 vols. (Paris: Mouton & Co., 1961), 2:613-18.
24. The Enragés are discussed usually within the larger framework of the sans-culottes movement. See, for example: Albert Mathiez, La Vie chère et le mouvement sodal sous la Tèrreur (Paris: Payot, 1927), passim; Daniel Guérin, La Lutte de classes sous la Première Republique, 2 vols. (Paris: Librairie Gallimard, 1946), passim; Walter Markov, "Robespierristen und Jacquesroutins," in Maximilien Robespierre, 1758-1794 (Berlin: Rütten & Loening, 1958), 159-217; idem, Jacques Roux oder vom Elend der Biographie (Berlin: Rütten & Loening, 1966); Albert Soboul, Les Sansculottes parisiens, passim; J. M. Zacher, Dvezheneye "Beshenich" (Therevolutionary movement of the Enragés) (Moscow: Izdatelstvo Sotsialno-Ekonornicheskoi Literaturi, 1961); Morris Slavin, "Left of the Mountain: The Enragés and the French Revolution," an unpublished thesis deposited in the library of Western Reserve University, 1961; R. B. Rose, The Enragés: Socialists of the French Revolution? (London: Melboume University press, 1965).
25 A.N., F-7 4775-40. He had been arrested by the Committee of General Security for "boldly manifesting bis opposition to the revolutionary govemment."
26. A.N., F7 47753.
27. A.N., F7 4774.9 Leclerc and bis wife, Pauline Léon, were arrested on a warrant issued by the Committee of General Security, dated 2 April 1794 (13 Germinal, Year II).
28. Both Roux and Leclerc tried to capitalize on the popularity of Marat af ter bis death. Roux began to publish a joumal in the summer of 1793 entitled Le Publiciste de la République française par l'ombre de Marat, l' Ami du peuple. (The first issue appeared 16 July 1793.) Leclerc began issuing a paper entitled L'Ami du peuple. (The first publication appeared on 20 July 1793.)
29. According to Varlet, he was bom on 14 July 1764 in Paris. This reference appears in a note to a brochure written by him some time af ter July 1830 (B.N., *E 1226, Déclaration des Droits de I'Homme maritime et du citoyen nautique [Nantes, n.d.]). We have no evidence either to sustain or to contradict bis claim that he was bom on 14 July-a most appealing date to a French patriot. Though he is constantly referred to as a young man (in 1793), neither bis dossier (F-7 4775040) nor bis brochures, some of which are autobiographical in parts, contain any data to this effect. The sole exception is the above note. J. M. Zacher, the late Russian scholar of the Enragé move ment, accepted the date of Varlet's birth as 1764. See bis "Jean Valet at the Time of the Jacobin Dictatorship," Journal of Modern and Current History, no. 2 (1959): 114. (The title in Russian is "Jean Varlet, vo vremya Jakobinskoe dictature," Novaya i Noveshnaya Istorya.)
30. Some of bis compositions in verse set to popular tunes;these appear in B.N., Ye 53552, Pot-poum national (Paris [?], 1791), 2, 3, 7.:
Brille par tout Liberté,
Nouveau soleil de ce monde;
Brille par tout Liberté,
Vas, fais palir les Tyran[s];
Par ta morale profondes [sic]
Sur leur trones chancellans,
Que leur orgueil se confonde
Brille par tout Liberté [etc.].
Rousseau, dans un écrit divin,
Fait vair le Peuple souverain;
Son livre est celui de Destin:
Qu'on le révère
Car c'est le Père
Ou genre humain.
Il faut les voir,
Péthion, Bauzot, Robespiere;
Il faut les voir,
Quand ils pulvérisent les Noirs [etc.].
Brilliant is all freedom,
New sun of this world;
Brilliant is all freedom,
Consoles of humanity;
Dull the Tyrant(s);
By your sagacious morality [!]
On their staggering thrones,
Which coincides with their haughtiness
Brilliant is all freedom[etc.].
Rousseau, in a divine writing,
Reveals the souvereign People;
His book is about its destination:
Let's esteem him highly
Because he is the Father
Of a human genre.
We have to see them,
Péthion, Bauzot, Robespiere;
We have to see them,
When they pulverize the Nights [enz.].
A.N., F-7 4775-40; Br. M., P 353, Jean Varlet, A ses chers concitoyens des
tribunes et des Jacobins (Paris, 1792), 1-3.
32. Br. M., 1012 (6), Jean Varlet, L' Apôtre de la liberté prisonnier, à ses concitoyens libres (Paris, 1793). In protesting bis arrest by the Jacobins in September 1793, Varlet refers to bis activities during the decisive days of the Revolution, one of which he reveals as having been 21 June 1791: "He who on 21 June 1791. . .conspired with the people against the royal und legislative tyranny" (p. 2; Varlet's
emphasis, but he does not explain just what he did that dar).
33. A.N., F-7 4775-40.
34. Alexandre Tuetey, Répertoire général des sources manuscrites de l'histoire de Paris pendant la Révolution française, II vols. (Paris: Imprimerie NouveIle, 1890-1914), 5, no. 3578: "Sovereign people, Lafayette is, was, and always will be a villain, a traitor to bis country. I co me forward as bis accuser. A citizen who is not afraid. Signed: Varlet."
35. Br.M., 935 G 10, Jean Varlet, Plan d'une nouvelle organization de la société mère des amis de la constitution suivi de la religion du philosophe dédie aux indigens (Paris, 1793),11-15,17-18. Varlet criticized the Jacobin sessions as offering very little to their members and guests because they were "heavy and dull with calumny." Too often the president concluded the session with the threadbare formula:
"The society wil/ taken in consideration, [etc.]: (Varlet's emphasis, ibid., 25).
Moniteur, 12, no. 174 Oune 22, 1792). Moniteur does not refer to
Varlet by name as the bearer of the petition, but internal evidence and the reference
to bis activity on 20 June Ieave no doubt that the orateur of the delegation was
Varlet. See, for example, bis dossier, (p7 47754°) and bis autobiographical
sketch in the brochures, L 'Apôtre de lá liberté; and
in B.N., Lb-41 2979, Déclaration solennele des Droits de l'Homme dans
l'état social, "Note historique."
37. Moniteur, 13, no. 220 (7 August 1792).
38. Br.M., R 97 (18), Jean Varlet, Projet d'un mandat special et impérat, aux mandataires du peuple à la Convention nationale (Paris, 1792), pp. 3-5. In a note he stated the following: "Almost always those who act as representatives imagine themselves to be really such; yet it is a principle that our inalienable sovereignty can neither be delegated nor respresented" (ibid., 5).
39. Ibid., 6-7, 11, 16-17.
40. Ibid., 18.
41. Ibid., 19.
42. It is interesting to no te that during the American Revolution, when various states werf drafting frameworks of government, the Constitutional Convention - of Pennsylvania, under the presidency of Benjamin Franklin, proposed to establish an institution to be known as a Council of Censors. lts duty was to inquire whether the constitution had been observed and to propose changes in it if thought desirabie. Though it was never place in effect, the state of Vermont seems to have used the same institution to some advantage Edward Channing, "A History of the United States" [New York: The Macmillan Co., 1949], 3:439- 40). Students of the Russian Revolution may see a certain similarity with the above in an institution entitled the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection. It was formed on Lenin's initiative in order to curb the growing power of the state and party bureaucracy. Within a short time, it, toa, became part of the general apparatus utilized by Stalin in bis struggle against bis political enemies.
43. The condition of the urban masses in the winter of 1793 is a topic in itself and ,bas its own rich bibliography. A classic treatment is that of Albert Mathiez in La vie chère: "For fear of displeasing the owners of property . . . the assemblies never demanded sufficient taxes. The Revolution triumphed upon the assignat, that is upon false money. One may sar that the little people bare the expenses of the Revolution a much as the priests and the emigrés" (608, 613).
44. Jean Jaurès, Histoire socialiste (1789-1900), 4 vals. (Paris: Publications Jules Roulf,1900), 4:1054..
45. F. A. Aulard, La société des Jacobins: Recueil de documents pour l'histoire du Club des Jacobins de Paris, 6 vals. (Paris, 1889-97), 5:37,038. Augustin Robespierre objected that such a discussion would alarm the Republic, while Dubois-Crancé declared that it was necessary to win freedom before one culd speak of cheap bread.
46. Moniteur, 15, no. 59 (28 February 1793); B.N., LC2 763, Le bulletin des amis de la vérité (Paris, 1793), I, no. 57, 25 February 1793; Tuetey, Répertoire général, 9,no. 83.
47. Aulard, La société des Jacobins, 4: 648-49. Varlet had caught a chilI while addressing
a crowd. The Jacobins sent a delegation to visit hifi during bis illness.
48. A.N., F7 4445. The Fédérés had organized themselves into "La Société des défenseurs réunis de la République," and met at the Jacobins. The insurrectionary committee included Varlet and the future Hébertistes Charles-Philippe Ronsin and François-Nicolas Vincent. They had set the time of the coup for 5 A.M.
49. Aulard, La société des Jacobins, 5:85-86; Tuetey, Répertoire général, 9, no. 472.
50. Jaurès, Histoire socialiste, 4: 1264.
51. Varlet, Déclaration solennele de Droits de l'Homme, 4-5 (Varlet's emphasis). The exact date of this address was given by the revolutionary committee of section Droits de l'Homme when it examined Varlet's papers (A.N., F-7 4775-40.)
52. Ibid., 6.
53. Ibid., 13 (Article 8).
54. Ibid., 15 (Article 10; Varlet's emphasis).
55. Ibid., 20-21.
56. It must be borne in mind, however, that an insurrection did not mean literally an armed uprising. Quite of ten it meant a demonstration, peaceable or militant, to let the authorities know the will of the sections. See, for example, the discussion by Albert Soboul, Les Sansculottes parisiens, 542-46. The motives of participants in various journées are discussed by George Rudé, The Crowd in the French Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959).
57. Tuetey, Répertoire genéral, 9, no. 603. At about the same time, he was physically attacked by an opponent in a public café. When a National Guardsman taunted him for his cowardice, Varlet replied: "I am a good patriot, and a good patriot knows hów to be ar an injury" (ibid.).
58. A.N., F-7 4775-4O. In summoning the Parisians to repeat their feats of 14 July and 10 August, Varlet urged the creation of a committee of insurrection to be composed of commissioners of the forty-eight sections and the communes of the department of Paris. He also demanded the reorganization of all administrations and bureaus whose members had not been elected by the people (B.N., Lb4. 5339, Mesures suprèmes de salut public, proposées aux citoyens du département de Paris [Paris, n.d.], Articles 2 and 15).
59. The John Rylands Library (Manchester), French Historical Tracts, Jean Varlet, Gare l'explosion (Paris 1794), 5-6. In chapter 8, "The Insurrection of May 31- June 2," in "Left of the Mountain," I discuss how the Jacobins were able to seize control of the Central Revolutionary Committee from the Enragés by adding some fifteen members from the department of Paris to the original Committee of Nine.
60. Moniteur, 17, no. 262, (19 September 1793); Buchez and Roux, Histoire parlementaires, 29: 112.
61. Tuetey, Répertoire général, 9, no. 1336. One possible justification for Varlet's arrest lay in Robespierre's repudiation of Article 43 of the constitution, which declared: "The deputies may not be examined, accused, or judged at any time for opinions they have expressed within the legislative body," On 15 June 1793 Robespierre criticized the article because, under the guise of free speech, a deputy could betray the interest of the people and go unpunished. He had thought it possible, he confessed, that at the conclusion of a legislative session each deputy could be forced to render an account to bis constituents of bis conduct and character during the previous session. "But I recognized in this method a host of difficulties: I saw that if, in a particular case, the people's justice pronounced the verdict, in another case intrigue would dominate andstifle the truth" (Moniteur, 16, no. 168 [17 June 1793]). This meant that Robespierre repudiated th at direct democracy for which Varlet was still struggling. It must be admitted, however, that he repudiated it not on constitutional grounds but rather on "practical" ones. "Henceforth the mandat impératif appeared definitely to have been condemned, in theory and in practice, by the partisans of representative government and by those of direct government, by the discipies of Rousseau and by those of Montesquieu" (Koch, Les Origines françaises, 101). In this con- nection, see the interesting essay by Gordon H. McNeil, "Robespierre, Rousseau, and Representation," in Ideas in History: Essays Presented to Louis Gottschalk by His Former Students, ed. Richard Herr and Harold T. Parker (Durham, NC: Duke University press, 135-56.)
62. Varlet, L'Apl1tre de la liberté prisonnier, 2, 6-7 (Varlet's emphasis).
63. A.N., F-7 4775-40. The Assembly promised th at it would "watch him and even censure bis imagination, bis fiery patriotism, if it should compromise public atfairs. "
64. A.N" F-7 4775-40.
65. In bis no te to the pamphlet Dédaration des Droits de I'Homme maritime, Varlet states that he had been imprisoned for el even moths in 1793. Actually, as we have seen, he had been detained for two months. His much longer imprisonment did not take place until the following year, 1794-1795.
66. A.N., C 306, pl, 1155, cited by Soboul, Les Sansculottes parisiens, 928, n. 42,
67. Varlet, Gare l'explosion, pp. 3-4. The pamphlet was issued 6 October 1794.
68. Ibid., 7.
69. Iibid., 11.
70. Ibid., 14.
71. A.N., F-7 4775-40.
74. Br.M., F 460 (6), Jean Varlet, Du Pléssis (Paris, 1794). "Let the revolutionarygovernment perish rather than a single principle," he wrote, and signed himself,"Varlet, libre."
75. A.N., F-7 47754O, Le Panthéon Français (Paris, 1795). This essay is signed "Varlet-citoyen," with "Varlet" in large letters and "Citoyen" in smaller, but it is crossed out and signed again with the size of the letters reversed, making "Varlet" small and "citoyen" large-an interesting psychological revelation.
76. A.N., W 548, cited by Käre D. Tonnesson, La défaite des sans-culottes (Paris: Librairie R. Clávreuil, and Oslo: Presses Universitaires d'Oslo, 1959), p. 375, n. 70. Varlet and three other internees wrote on 12 April 1795 (23 Germinal, Year IV): "We conspire! Is this the label one applies to so natural a feeling ofevery free and honest man to rise against oppression?"
77. Moniteur 29, no. 318 (5 August 1799 [18 Thermidor, year VII]).
78. On 28 September 1813 the prefect of police in Paris reported to the Minister of the Interior: "This man [Varlet] , is in no war dangerous radar. He has become very poor and, as he could not find any means of support, bas quit the capital and we are assured he bas retired to Meaux or its environs" (A.N., F7 6586, cited by J. [M.] Zacher, "Varlet, pendant la réaction Thermidorienne," Annales historique de la Révolution française, no. 163 Oanuary-March, 1961), 33.
79. B.N., Lb46 116, Jean Varlet, Magnanimité de I'empereur des Français envers ses ennemis (Imprimerie de Chaignieau Jeune, n.d.). This eight-page borchure contains neither place nor date of publication. According to the author, the brochure first appeared as an article in the Gazette de France 5 January 1814. It isan apology for "le héro" Napoleon's "just as mild" treatment of bis vanquished
enemies, especially Austria. Varlet urged defiance and unity of all Frenchmen against the victorious powers.
80. B.N., Ye 53554, Jean Varlet, Le Phénix, le hibou et les oiseaux de proie (Nantes,1831). The theme is that an owl (Louis XVIII), with the help of birds of pref(the European powers) , had made himself master of the birds of the forest.When the phoenix (Napoleon) reappeared, ho wever, the owl flew back intothe shadows from whence he had come.
81.Archives de la Loire-Inférieure, 1-M-64-64, Liste Electorale de 1831 (Nantes,May 1831). He was elected from the second eletoral arrondissement.
82. See, for example, the following: B.N., LC11 720, L 'Etoile polaire de la marine Française (Paris, July 1830), 8 pp. The ritte page bears this acknowledgment ofthe Revolution: "l'An I" de l'héroisme parisien," Also see Dédaration des Droits de l' Homme maritime. This brochure was sold for the benefit of paar mariners, And B.N., Lbsl 952, Circulaire adressée aux habitants de Nantes (Nantes, 1831), 3 pp,
83, B.N., R. Pièce 7654, Jean Varlet, Le Pater Noster d'un libre penseur dédié aux Mânes de Voltaire (Paris, 1830), 4 pp. Af ter moving to Corbeil (Seine-et-Oise Department) , in 1836, Varlet ended bis days by drowning accidentally on 4 October 1837, He was, thus, 73 years old wh en he died. Yves Blavier, "Jean-François Varlet Après la Révolution," Annales historiques, No. 284, Avril-Juin 1991, 227-231.
84. Dédaration solenelle des Droits de I'Homme, "Note historique," 23.