French Revolution 1793

“That Wretched City Must Disappear”
Letter from Georges Couthon to St. Just

Source: Lucien de la Hodde, Correspondance des terroristes de 93. Paris, Julien, Lanier, et Co, 1851;
Translated: from the original for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2011.

Translator’s note: The city of Lyon, as well as much of the south, opposed the Jacobins and the Terror. Georges Couthon, a leading Jacobin, was sent to the region to put down the revolt, which resulted in the deaths of thousands and Lyon having its name changed to Ville Affranchie, Free City. Couthon, who was to die along with Robespierre on 9 Thermidor, wrote this letter to Saint-Just, after Robespierre the most important Jacobin leader.

To Ville-Affranchie, October 20, year II of the Republic

I think people are stupid here by temperament and that the fogs of the Rhone and the Saône carry into the atmosphere a vapor that also thickens ideas. We have requested a colony of Jacobins whose efforts, joined with ours, will provide the people of Ville-Affranchie with a new education. I would like to breathe the air of the Midi and perhaps I could render some service in Toulon, but I would like it to be a committee decree that dispatches me there. Forward me this decree and the nimble general will immediately set off, and unless hell gets in my way the rule of force will reign in Toulon, as it does in Lyon. Once Toulon is in flames — for that wretched city must disappear from the land of liberty — I will return to you and take root till the bitter end. My wife Hyppolite and I embrace you from the bottom of our hearts.

P.S. I charged D'Aumale, our secretary, with asking if I can keep the infamous Précy’s [1] telescope, which I would like as a piece of history.

Signed, G. Couthon

1. Leader of the counter-revolutionary forces in Lyon.