Marat, Jean-Paul


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Marat, Jean-Paul

 

Born May 24, 1743, in Boudry, Switzerland; died July 13, 1793, in Paris. Leader of the Great French Revolution, scholar, and journalist.

Marat settled in France when he was 16 years old. Until 1765 he studied the natural and philosophical sciences at Bordeaux and Paris. He was influenced intellectually by the Enlightenment, and chiefly by the writings of Rousseau and Montesquieu. In 1765, Marat went to Great Britain, where he worked in the natural sciences and medicine and opened a medical practice. His book An Enquiry Into the Nature, Cause, and Cure of a Singular Disease of the Eyes was published in 1769. Subsequently, Marat wrote other works on medicine and physics. In 1775 the University of Edinburgh conferred on him the degree of doctor of medicine. In the same year his scientific and philosophical work A Philosophical Essay on Man was published in Amsterdam. It was criticized by Voltaire and Diderot for its antimaterialist tendency.

Marat’s first political composition, The Chains of Slavery, which dealt with the struggle against the feudal absolutist system, was published anonymously in English in 1774. It demonstrated the inevitability of revolution and discussed concrete issues of the revolutionary struggle. These advanced ideas were further developed in the political-juridical work A Plan for Criminal Legislation , which was published in Neuchatel, Switzerland, in 1780. From 1776, Marat lived in Paris, where his medical practice and his work in physics won him some recognition.

When the revolution began, Marat left his scientific occupations and devoted himself to serving the people. In pamphlets written in 1789 (Gift to the Fatherland and Supplements ) he developed the idea of the need to unite all progressive social forces for the struggle against absolutism. In September 1789 he began to publish the newspaper Ami du peuple, which became popular as a militant organ of revolutionary democracy. The newspaper published articles that systematically defended the goals of developing the revolution and exposing those who used false, hypocritical phrases to conceal their desire to delay the revolution’s further development. Predicting the betrayal of the revolution by J. Necker, Mirabeau, and Lafayette, Marat conducted an uncompromising struggle against them while they were still at the height of their glory. With the same resoluteness, he later exposed the Girondins’ duplicity and their halfhearted stand, which were, in the final analysis, to lead them to a position hostile to the revolution.

Persecuted by the authorities and baited by his political foes, Marat was forced to leave for Great Britain in January 1790. Returning to France in May of the same year, he stayed in hiding and issued an underground newspaper. From December 1791 to April 1792 he was in Great Britain.

Although he devoted his attention primarily to political questions, Marat also worked on the social problems of the revolution, firmly and consistently defending the interests of the people and of the poorest strata. In this way he won for himself enormous popularity among the masses. He was elected to the Convention in 1792. Hoping that all revolutionary forces would consolidate for a victory over foreign intervention, Marat renamed the newspaper Ami du peuple the Journal de la République française and proclaimed a new policy of putting aside partisan disagreements and uniting all forces in the name of the salvation of the republic. However, the Girondins did not accept his proposal. In April 1793, Marat was arrested and sent for trial before the Revolutionary Tribunal. This was done in violation of his immunity as a deputy but in accordance with a resolution passed by the Convention under pressure from the Girondins. However, Marat was found innocent and was returned in triumph to the Convention by the people.

Marat and Robespierre, the leaders of the Jacobins, directed the preparations for the national uprising of May 31 to June 2, 1793, which overthrew the Girondins. Severe illness prevented Marat from taking part in the work of the Convention after the Jacobin dictatorship was established. However, even while he was ill, he continued to issue his newspaper. Marat was murdered by C. Corday. His funeral was turned into a spectacular political demonstration.

WORKS

Les Pamphlets . Paris, 1911.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv . vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1956.
Pis’ma 1776-1793 , Moscow, 1923.

REFERENCES

Fridliand, Ts. Zh. P. Marat i grazhdanskaia voina XVIII v., 2nd ed. Moscow, 1959.
Manfred, A. Z. Marat. Moscow, 1962.
Chevremont, F. J.-P. Marat, vols. 1-2. Paris, 1880.
Massin, J. Marat. Paris, 1960.

A. Z. MANFRED