Jean-Paul Marat on the betrayal of the revolution (1792)


Writing in his newspaper in July 1792, the radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat condemned the new order, claiming that it had failed and betrayed the revolution:


“The Objectives of the Revolution completely unobtained by the People…

At all times men have been tigers toward one another. Under the old regime, we had for masters both the despot and his agents and valets, who robbed us and oppressed us as they wished – but the law left us a natural defence and allowed us to complain.

Under the new regime, the law that should defend us serves only to oppress us. We no longer have masters but we groan under the iron rod of our own representatives and are abandoned defenceless to the mercies of our own agents. And what is the height of the horror, they crush us in the name of justice, they load us with irons in the name of liberty; they prevent us from unmasking the traitors who misuse our powers in order to ruin us; they punish us for resisting the liars who abuse our forces for the purpose of oppressing us; they make it a crime for us to defend ourselves in a natural way; they forbid us to grumble, they go so far as to prohibit complaints.

Let us not be afraid to repeat it: we are further from liberty than ever. For not only are we slaves, we are slaves legally, as a consequence of the perfidy [treachery] of our legislators, who have become the accomplices of a rehabilitated despotism.

The objectives of the revolution have been missed completely. Since [the revolution] was made against despotism, it was necessary to begin by suspending the despot and his agents from all the functions, by entrusting the government to representatives of the people, by decreeing that there would be an interregnum for the entire time that the constitution was not yet made. Once completed, it would have been presented to the prince, who would have been dethroned if he had refused to swear obedience to the new laws and fidelity to the nation.

Nothing could have been easier for the representatives of the people on the day following the taking of the Bastille. But for that, it was necessary for them to have purposes and character. Now, far from being statesmen, they were almost all merely adroit swindlers who sought to sell themselves; vile intriguers who flaunted their false civic-mindedness in order to be bought at a higher price.

And so they began by securing the prerogatives of the crown before ruling on the rights of the people. They did more, they began by restoring to the prince the supreme executive power, by making him the arbiter of the legislator, by charging him with the execution of the laws, and by abandoning to him the keys of the public treasury, the management of the national property, the command of the fleets and armies, and the disposal of the public force, in order to assure him the means of opposing more effectively the establishment of liberty and of overturning the new order of things.”