Jean-Paul Marat 1793

The Execution of the Tyrant

Source: Journal de la République Francaise, No 105. January 23, 1793;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2004.

The head of the tyrant has just fallen under the sword of the law; the same blow has overturned the foundations of monarchy among us. I finally believe in the republic.

In order to wrest him from his execution, the despot’s henchmen sought to inspire fear in us of the affects of his death. How vain these fears were. The precautions taken to maintain tranquility were imposing, without a doubt; they were dictated by prudence, but they nevertheless proved to be superfluous: one could have confidence in public indignation from the Temple to the scaffold; not one voice cried out for grace during the execution, not one voice was raised in favor of the man who once decided the destiny of France. A profound silence reigned all around him, and when his head was shown to the people, from all around there arose the cries of Vive la nation! Vive la république!

The rest of the day was perfectly calm; for the first time since the federation the people seemed animated by a serene joy: one would have thought they had just participated in a religious celebration, delivered from the weight of oppression that had weighed on them for so long; and, penetrated by the sentiment of fraternity, all hearts gave themselves over to the hope for a happier future.

This sweet satisfaction was only troubled by the sorrow caused by the horrible attack on the person of a representative of the nation[1], for having voted for the death of the tyrant.

The execution of Louis XVI is one of those memorable events that mark an epoch in the history of nations. It will have a prodigious influence on the fate of the despots of Europe, and on those peoples who have not yet broken their chains.

In pronouncing the death penalty on the tyrant of the French, the National Convention no doubt showed itself to be great, but it was the wish of the nation, and the manner in which the people watched the punishment of its former master, that raised them far beyond their representatives for, have no doubt, the same sentiments that animated the citizens of Paris and the federés animate the citizens of all departments.

The execution of Louis XVI, far from troubling the peace of the state, will only serve to strengthen it, not only by containing the internal enemies through terror, but also the external enemies. It will also give the nation new strength to push back the ferocious hordes of foreign henchmen who would dare bear arms against it. For there is no way of going back, and this is the position in which we find ourselves today: we must win or perish, a palpable truth that Cambon rendered in a sublime image when he said at the tribune the day before yesterday: “We have finally docked on the isle of freedom, and we have burned the vessel that brought us there.”

1. The assassin is that Paris who last year insulted patriots in cafes, and who had some affair with Boyer in which he came out badly. Last Sunday he was with five thugs at the home of a caterer at the palace of d’Egalité, where Pelletier usually took his meals. Exiting from a neighboring room at the moment Pelletier was paying his bill he asked him if he had voted in favor of death [for the king]. Upon hearing the affirmative he plunged his saber in his belly, a wound from which the virtuous deputy died during the night.