April, 1791: Robespierre on the Suffrage

  • Paul H. Beik
Part of the The Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


With considerable popular support—for example, from the Commune of Paris—and reinforced by the views of Condorcet, Marat, and others, Robespierre had in 1790 and early 1791 opposed the property qualification for voters and attempted to influence the National Assembly and its Constitutional Committee in this sense. The following document is a speech he was unable to get permission to deliver to the Assembly, and finally at the end of March, 1791, published, and, early in April, distributed to the popular societies and other groups. Although this speech was never delivered in the Assembly, it attracted much attention and greatly strengthened opposition to the silver mark. Robespierre himself used some of its materials in later speeches. The document contains social material and passages about the meaning of the revolution and its place in history, as well as a classic list of arguments against the property qualification for voting. Robespierre was always very careful about the publication of his works. The source in this case is Discours à l’Assemblée nationale, sur la nécessité de révoquer les décrets qui attachent l’exercice des droits du citoyen à la contribution du marc d’argent, ou d’un nombre déterminé de journées d’ouvriers, par Maximilien Robespierre (Paris, Imprimerie nationale, 1791, 24 pp.). The only omissions made in translation affect illustrative materials in the late pages and the draft decree at the end, rather than the structure and arguments of the speech.


Public Reason Active Citizen Direct Taxis Constitutional Principle Disastrous Error 
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© Paul H. Beik 1970

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  • Paul H. Beik

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