Saint-Just proposes the Laws of Ventôse (1794)


The laws of Ventôse were decrees proposed by the radical deputy Louis Saint-Just in late February 1794. They proposed seizing the property of all suspects and redistributing it to the poor:


“The force of events may be leading us to conclusions we never imagined. Wealth is in the hands of many of the Revolution’s enemies. Necessity compels working people to depend upon those enemies. Do you think authority can survive if civil relationships depend ultimately on those who are hostile to its form of government?

Men who only half make a revolution are only digging their own graves. Are the people shedding their blood on the frontiers, does every family wear mourning for its sons in order to make things comfortable for tyrants? You must recognize the principle that in our country, no one has any rights who did not help to set it free.

Do away with mendicancy, [it is a] disgrace to a free State. The property of patriots is sacred but the property of conspirators should be available for the needy. The needy are the powers of the earth, they have the right to speak as masters to governments which neglect them.

The way to strengthen the Revolution is by making it profitable to its supporters and ruinous to its opponents. Let us teach Europe that you do not intend there to be one unhappy man or one oppressor on French soil. Let this example bear fruit throughout the world, and let it foster love of the virtues and of happiness. Happiness is a new idea in Europe!

I propose the following decree: All the communes of the Republic shall draw up a list of the indigent patriots they contain. When the Committee of Public Safety has received these lists, it will report on the means of indemnifying all these unfortunate people from the seizures of property of enemies of the Revolution.”