Jacques Hébert 1793

J.R. Hébert, Deputy Procurator of the Commune, to his Fellow Citizens

Source: J.R. Hébert, substitut procureur de la Commune a ses concitoyens. Paris, [n.d. 1793] l’Imprimerie de la rue neuve de l’Égalité, Cour des Miracles;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2010.

Translator’s note: On May 24, 1793, the moderates of the Commission of the Twelve ordered Hébert arrested for conspiratorial activities. He was released three days later, backed by the loyal sans-culottes, whose voice he was. Of the names mentioned in this piece almost all were executed: Roland, Madame Roland, Brissot, Gorsas, Barbaroux, and Hébert himself in 1794. Pétion, a Robespierrist, committed suicide before he could be guillotined.

Monday, May 27 of the second year of the Republic

I had resolved to preserve a profound silence concerning my arrest in order to deprive the counter-revolutionaries who wish to destroy me of any pretext for imputing to me the commotion they seek to incite in Paris. But since the most slanderous rumors are being spread about my detention it is my duty to destroy them and inform patriots of all the dangers that threaten them.

On Friday the 24th of this month I was fulfilling at the general council of the Commune the functions my fellow citizens honored me with. At 9:00 p.m. a gendarme presented me with a summons from the committee of the twelve ordering me to immediately appear before them. I informed my colleagues of this and reminded them of their commitment to consider themselves as having been struck if any individual from among them was victim of an arbitrary act. After having insisted on my innocence and told my fellow citizens to protect themselves against the dangers threatening freedom, filled with the testimonies of esteem and friendship of all my colleagues, I followed the guard and went to the Duodecimvirs.

Starving wolves who prowl and growl while awaiting their prey are less impatient than the grand inquisitors were to see me arrive at their fearsome tribunal. My name resounded throughout the streets around the lair where my irons were being forged: “Is it the deputy procurator of the commune? Is it Hébert? Is it Père Duchesne?

There he was. At this word joy was painted on all their faces. The virtuous Pétion, the honest Barbaroux, who, enticed by the pleasure of reveling in my humiliation, wanted to join in the fun, were going to sit with this committee, but reading in my face the feelings their presence inspired in me, foreseeing all that I was going to say about them, they preferred leaving to announce the good news to their henchmen to remaining to witness the scene I am going to describe.

President Molvaux, after a few questions concerning my name, civil status, address and the preliminary formalities, asked me if I was the author of a paper called Père Duchesne. There’s Père Duchesne and there’s Père Duchesne, I answered, “if you’re talking about the player of false notes, if you’re talking about those terribly patriotic letters that praised Lafayette to the heavens, that sang of the bounties of the last of our tyrants, that praised the virtues of the great Roland and the chaste spouse of that worthy minister, well I have nothing to do with that Père Duchesne. But if you mean that honest and loyal Père Duchesne who has pursued the traitors since the first days of the revolution, I admit to being that one.

President Molvaux presented me with a benign hand the last six issues. After having read and examined them I recognized my work, with the exception of a few marginal notes and a few notes between the lines that I believe were written by messieurs Brissot and Gorsas.

Q: What was your intention in writing these abominable articles?

A: With the intention, gentlemen, of enlightening that interesting portion of the people who have always been disdained by fine spirits and for whom they never wrote. I thought that in speaking the language closest to nature, in swearing along with those who swear I could teach important truths to honest citizens who only need a little bit of education to raise themselves to the highest virtues and to defend their rights.

Q: What do you mean by “Brissotins” and “Girondins"?

A: I already told you that having appropriated the vulgar tongue I had to use the expressions familiar to the sans-culottes. Don’t you know that when in the produce markets they speak of a Briossotin or a Girondin it’s as if they were speaking of a Dumouriez?

Q: But you seem to be designating the Convention by these brazen expressions.

A: Me, insult the Convention? If it were possible for it to be Brissotized and Rolanized the counter-revolution would have been carried out.

Q: But you preach murder and carnage. You say in one of your papers that we must lay hands on the traitors.

A: That’s true, citizen inquisitors, and may it please heaven that all conspirators be suffocated.

Q: But you say that if there were three hundred fewer rascals France would be saved.

A: You see, citizen inquisitors, that I am moderate. Someone else would perhaps rightly say that more than 300,000 heads must fall in order to save freedom.

Q: But you preach murder and anarchy; you want the Convention to be dissolved.

A: Citizen inquisitors, it’s no longer Père Duchesne who will speak, it’s the people’s magistrate who will answer you. Examine my private and political lives and you will see if I am a good man and a true patriot. Ask my colleagues from the commune of August 10. Question the people, who have seen me constantly defend its rights and fulfill – if I may be allowed to say so – with dignity the position they’ve confided to me, and if you have any shame you’ll blush at having dared suspect me of such crimes. You will earn that in all the counter-revolutionary movements that have occurred since last September I have always thrown myself into the crowd, I’ve spoken to the people in the language of a magistrate, and you’ll learn that it is I, yes I, who put an end to the sugar conspiracy.

You’ll learn that on March 10 I denounced the undertakings that a handful of individuals wanted to allow themselves against several members of the Convention; that it was in accordance with my plea that all the security measures were taken. If in that case the Convention decreed that the municipality had deserved well of the republic know that I had my part to play in that decree. After all these facts, whose delirious mind could think that I was a disorganizer, a conspirator against the national representation? Even if I’ve pronounced some erroneous opinions in my speeches and writings (which can’t be proven), do you have the right to make if this a crime? Does the freedom of the press no longer exist? Do you alone have the right to speak all the foolishness imaginable and to vomit up the most disgusting slanders against patriots? If you are looking for disorganizers and anarchists, go find them in the shops of your friends Brissot and Gorsas, whose pestilential productions have disseminated the germs of the war of the Vendée and the civil war they want to start between Paris and the departments.

Despite these categorical reasonings and responses, after an interrogation of seven hours, I was transferred to the prison of the abbey, though I’ve not yet heard speak of an interrogation, despite the fact that the law prescribes the interrogation of every detainee within 24 hours of his arrest. I have some quite sweet consolations on my captivity. What a happy, what an honorable persecution. What commitments I’ve made to the good citizens who have come to visit me and bathe my irons with their tears. Oh my fatherland, you shall be saved! There exist too many patriots for liberty to perish.

Brave sans-culottes, gather in all your sections. Loudly demand the abolition of this committee of inquisition which wants to destroy the Convention by exercising the most tyrannical acts in its name. Within the last night the residents and secretaries of the section of the Cité were torn from their wives’ arms. One of them is national commissar for the tribunal of the sixth arrondissement and cannot participate in today’s hearing. You thus see that the course of justice is interrupted, that the magistracy is degraded, that the people’s sovereignty is insulted and ignored, that all powers are usurped, that the proscription lists have been drawn up, that individual liberty no longer exists, and that those of the press and opinion are obliterated. What were you before July 14? What are you now?

Hébert, member of the commune of August 10,
elector of the department of Paris,
deputy procurator of the commune.