Jean-Paul Marat 1793

Letter to the Jacobins

Source: Correspondance de Jean-Paul Marat, receuellie et annotée par Charles Vellay. Charpentier et Fasquelle, Paris, 1908;
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2004.

Brothers and friends:

Schemers have doubtless imposed upon you. At least I have the right to think this so, and that of loudly complaining of it today.

I was denounced from your tribune for having called for a chief. Upon your invitation I presented myself, sick as I am, to explain myself on this subject. I would have expected that after having allowed the publicity of the accusation you would take the trouble to give the same publicity to my response. Here it is word for word. I expect of your love of justice that you will have this letter printed in its entirety.


I have been denounced for having called for a chief. It’s extremely disagreeable for a zealous defender of the fatherland to have to speak of measure of public security in the presence of imbeciles who don’t understand French, or of knaves who don’t want to understand it. Here are the facts that caused that accusation.

May 31, at 8:00 pm, I received deputies from several sections at the National Convention who asked me what had to be done. What?, I answered. You sounded the tocsin all night, you were armed all day, and you don’t know what has to be done. I have nothing to say to the foolish. And I left them there. Despairing of the efforts of the people , forever powerless when not guided by an enlightened and firm counsel, I returned to the room, and in the bitterness of my heart I said to several Montagnards: No, it isn’t possible for the people to save themselves if they don’t have any chiefs. What! cried out a statesman who was listening in. You demand a chief? Animal, I instantly said. In my mouth a chief doesn’t mean a master; no holds masters more in horror than I. But in the current crisis I want chiefs who will guide the operations of the people so that that not make any false steps and so that their efforts not be powerless. For what are 100,000 men under arms for the past 24-hours if they have no chiefs to guide them? Citizens, these are the facts. Evaluate them and judge me.

Brothers and friends, I am in bed suffering from an inflammatory illness, the fruit of the long nights to which I have given myself over in order to defend freedom for the past four years, and especially of the torments I have inflicted upon myself for the past nine months in order to bring down the faction of statesmen. If the unvarying proofs I have given until today of my ardent civisme don’t suffice to guarantee my purity to the friends of the fatherland, then I was doubtless wrong to have had myself made anathema for pulling them back from the abyss. I am as disgusted as I can be! Communicate my letter to your affiliates in La Rochelle, depict for them he who denounces me, the aristocrat Mussel, and allow me to breathe a moment. It’s too much to have to fight at the same time the dastardy of the enemies of freedom and the blindness of its friends.

I fraternally salute you.

Marat, deputy to the Convention.