Raualt on the unrest of 12-13 Germinal (1795)


Nicolas Raualt, a Paris bookseller, writes to his brother about the uprisings of 12-13 Germinal, Year III (April 1st and 2nd 1795):


“Paris, 24 Germinal, Year III

Public affairs are a thousand times worse in Paris than with you, my dear friend. We are lost here in an immense chasm. We have become a hydra with 650,000 heads with as many empty stomachs that have been hungry now for a long time, and it is impossible, not necessarily to satisfy the hunger, but to half feed it.

I dare not tell you all that is said, all the curses one hears in the long queues which form every evening, every night, at the bakers’ doors, in the hope of getting, after five or six hours’ wait, sometimes half a pound of biscuit per person, sometimes half a pound of bad bread, sometimes six ounces of rice or six ounces of biscuit per person. And yet the government treats the 4,000 or 5,000 men, who lose half their working day waiting for this minuscule portion of wretched food, who complain about their poverty and the horror of their existence, as seditious.

It has long been known that hunger is seditious by nature. It is ‘malesuada’ [bad advice], as the great poet Virgil energetically put it. Banish that and these supposedly seditious people will disappear. They will not break into the august French Senate again, as they did on the 12th of this month, to cry, ‘Give us bread! Give us bread!’ People will no longer talk of [uprisings]…

It is no longer the time to laugh or jump around. The flour intended for Paris is stopped on the way and stolen by citizens, even hungrier, no doubt than ourselves, if such there be within the whole Republic. Yet there is no lack of flour anywhere! There is still plenty in store in the departments of the Nord, the Pas-de-Calais, the Somme, the Seine- Infe?rieure, etc. The farmers absolutely refuse to sell it for paper money. You have to go to them and take linen or table silver, jewellery or gold crosses to get a few bushels. The wretches! Brutal and grasping farmers! They are taking advantage of the absurd unlimited liberty of grain commerce in the country…

Discord is more firmly established than ever within [the Convention’s] bosom. It returned triumphant with the 73 prisoners and the 18 outlaws. Now we are back to where we were at the end of April 1793 – and a hundred times worse as far as financial matters go. Too many assignats, too much slacking in the government, too many favours shown to enemies of democracy, too much individual hatred among those we call legislators… What a situation! What a terrible perspective!”