The Manifesto of the Enragés (1793)


Jacques Roux was a former priest who became the outspoken of the Enragés. In June 1793 he addressed the National Convention and urged it to take action against wealthy price speculators and monopolists:


“Delegates of the French people!

One hundred times this hall has rung with the crimes of egoists and knaves. You have always promised to strike the bloodsuckers of the people. The constitutional act is going to be presented to the sovereign for sanction. Have you prohibited price speculation there? No. Have you called for the death penalty against monopolists? No. Have you determined what freedom of commerce consists of? No. Have you forbidden the sale of minted money? No. Well then, we say to you that you haven’t done everything for the happiness of the people.

Freedom is nothing but a vain phantom when one class of men can starve another with impunity. Equality is nothing but a vain phantom when the rich, through monopoly, exercise the right of life or death over their like. The republic is nothing but a vain phantom when the counter-revolution can operate every day through the price of commodities, which three quarters of all citizens cannot afford without shedding tears…

For the last four years the rich alone have profited from the advantages of the Revolution. The merchant aristocracy, more terrible than that of the noble and aristocracy, has made a cruel game of invading individual fortunes and the treasury of the republic… Pronounce against speculators and monopolists: either they’ll obey your decrees or they won’t. In the first hypothesis you will have saved the fatherland. In the second case you will still have saved the fatherland, for we will have been able to identify and strike the bloodsuckers of the people.

And can the property of knaves be more sacred than the life of a man? Armed force is at the disposal of administrative bodies; how can they not be able to requisition those goods necessary to life? The legislator has the right to declare war, to have men massacred. How could he then not have the right to prevent the grinding down and starvation of those who guard their homes?…

Deputies of the Mountain, if you would climb from the third to the ninth floor of the houses of this revolutionary city you would be touched by the tears and the sobs of an immense people, without bread or clothing, reduced to a state of distress and misfortune by speculation and monopoly because laws have been cruel to the poor, because they were only made by and for the rich…

Deputies of the Mountain… You will not leave your work in a state of imperfection. You will found the bases for public prosperity. You will not consecrate the general and repressive principles of speculation and monopoly. You will not give to your successors the terrible example of the barbarism of powerful men over the weak, of the rich over the poor. You will not end your career in infamy.

With this full confidence, receive here the new oath we swear to defend unto the grave liberty, equality, and the unity and indivisibility of the republic and the oppressed sans culottes of the departments…

Long live the truth, long live the National Convention, long live the French Republic!”