Good Morning/Afternoon class, Today I will be talking to you about Camille Desmoulins, a prominent politician and writer during the French Revolution and will discuss his impacts on the revolutions development.
The scope of the presentation will cover his early life, his influence over the start of the revolution his literary impact and demise, and finally his legacy.
Camille Desmoulins was an influential journalist and politician who came to prominence during the early part of the French Revolution. Camille was born on 2 March 1760 in a town named Guise, located north of France, and died on 5 April 1794.
Camille came from a family involved as part of the Justice system, and his father was the lieutenant-general of the bailiff of Guise. Like his father before him, Camille initially followed in his fathers footsteps and attended the Louis-le Grand in Paris to undertake studies of law. Following completion of his studies, in 1785 Camille was employed as an advocate of the parliament of Paris.
Due to a speech impediment that Camille suffered, he had limited success in the field of law. As a result of this, Camille turned his work to writing rather than speaking. Throughout his life he had a number of notable works, but perhaps his most well known work was a pamphlet that was named La France Libre, which was first published in mid 1789. This pamphlet was widely read throughout Paris by the republicans, but was treated with condemnation by the royalists and moderates in and around Paris.
In the La France Libre pamphlet Camille wrote:
“We are the most numerous; we are the strongest. See the capital itself, that hotbed of corruption, where the monarchy, born enemy of morality, seeks only to deprave us, to enervate the national character, to degrade us by multiplying the snares of seduction for youth, by creating facilities for debauchery and besieging us with prostitutes; the capital itself contains more than thirty thousand men who are ready to bid adieu to all its pleasures and join the sacred cohorts of our country at the first signal, so soon as liberty shall have raised her standard in one province, and rallied its good citizens around it. Paris, like the rest of France, calls aloud for liberty.”
It was not until Jaques Necker was dismissed as Finance Minister to Louis XVI that Camille came to be public eye when he spoke in front of a large crowd that had gathered at the Palais-Royal. Jaques Necker was not well liked and feared the public. It was at this speech that Camille gave, that he informed the crowd that he believed that an attack on Paris by royal troops was likely.
News of the dismissal of Necker reached the Palais-Royal in the heart of Paris at about 9:00 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, July 12, 1789. Numerous soap-box orators began to speak, and the one who attracted the largest crowd (the only one whose remarks have been preserved) was Camille Desmoulins. He said “After such an act they will dare anything, and they may perhaps be planning and preparing a Saint-Bartholemew massacre of patriots for this very night!
…To arms! To arms! Let us all wear green cockades, the colour of hope…. The famous police are here; well, let them look at me, observe me carefully! Yes, I call on my brothers to seek liberty!” Camille then raised a pistol and exclaimed, “At least they will not take me alive, and I am ready to die a glorious death! I can only meet with a single misfortune, and that would be to see France in bondage!”
It is believed that this speech was the start of the events that can be traced to the beginning of the French Revolution. Following the intent of Camille’s strong speech, crowds of people rapidly moved through Paris, gathering arms by force to arm themselves against attack. It was these people who would from the initial Parisian Militia on the 13th of July 1789 and would later become the National Guard. The very next day, on the 14th July 1789, the Bastille was sieged and taken by the militia.
It was not until November 1789 when Camille Desmoulins really started his career as a journalist with the publication of the weekly pamphlet named Les Révolutions de France et de Brabant. This publication was produced for a total of 73 weeks, where after the 73rd edition its title changed and then eventually disappeared from Paris by the end of July 1791.
In July 1791 Camille Desmoulins petitioned for the deposition of the King, which at the time was a very dangerous move due to the volatile situation created by the public uprising. While the petition gathered much public support, it eventually led to an arrest warrant being issued on 31 March 1794 for Camille Desmoulins and his counterpart, Danton.
Following the issuing of this arrest warrant, Camille Desmoulins and Danton were arrested and over the coming days in early April that they were tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal. During the trial, Camille and Danton were not allowed to defend themselves by a decree of the Convention.
It is believed that these events, Camille threatening the jury and a false report of a spy, charging Camille’s wife with conspiracy to escape and aiding his efforts to plot the “ruin of the Republic” resulted in the imposition of the death sentence for the duo. The verdict of the Revolutionary Tribunal was given without Camille and Danton being present, with their execution being scheduled for the 5 April 1794, that very same day.
Camille Desmoulin’s involvement in both politics and journalism through being a member of the fourth estate (the term used to refer to the press at this time) left a legacy that was to shape the free press in modern societies. He was a prominent pamphleteer during the French Revolution that was responsible for helping to establish an activist press leading which would be the pre-cursor to modern day press.
Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for listening and I know invite any questions you may have.
– When he was ten, Camille Desmoulins attended the Louis-le-Grand in Paris with a full scholarship.
– There he met Robespierre, where they became very good friends. This relationship would be maintained until 20 years later when Robespierre would sign the death warrant for Camille Desmoulin.
– A Stutter impacted his effectiveness as a lawyer
– Camille would first come to the public eye as a pamphleteer in Paris that wrote a republican pamphlet titled La France Libre
Influence over the Revolution
– Camille’s first development as part of the French Revolution came following the removal of Jacques Necker, Finance Minister in 1791
– A large number of people had gathered at the Palais-Royal in the heart of Paris. Soap-box orators began speaking to the crowds individually, with Camille brining the largest crowd.
– After giving his speak on the soap-box,
Literary Impact and his demise
– Camille Desmoulins first began his career as a journalist in November 1789 where he wrote a weekly pamphlet called Les Révolutions de France et de Brabant
– In July 1791 Camille called for the deposition of the King before the municipality of Paris.
– On March 31 1794, a warrant for his arrest was issued for him to stand trial for crimes against the government.
– The trial of Camille Desmoulins and Danton was conducted in front of the Revolutionary Tribunal where the were not allowed to defend themselves against the charges.
– Both Camille and Danton were found guilty and sentenced to death the very same day. This was 5 April 1794.
The Legacy of Desmoulins
– Camille Desmoulins influenced both the areas of politics and journalism during the French Revolution
– He became an important pamphleteer who emerged from the Revolutionary period
– Camille Desmoulins helped establish the activist press and the role of the free press in modern day societies.
– His legacy was his involvement with politics but also to create free speech media which was the pre-cursor to the modern day free press.