February 15, 1793: Condorcet Presents His Constitution to the Convention
The Marquis Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat le Condorcet is well known as an aristocrat and a philosophe who during the revolution became a democratic theoretician of representative government and the principal author of the so-called Girondin constitution which was presented to the Convention on February 15 and 16, 1793. The constitution, like Condorcet himself, became a victim of the Girondin-Mountain struggle. It was set aside by the Convention, vilified by the leaders of the Mountain, replaced by the Jacobin constitution of 1793, and given little notice by subsequent generations. Condorcet himself, who died in prison in 1794, is much better known for the remarkable Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain (1794), which he wrote while outlawed and in hiding during the Terror. His speech of February 15, 1793, introducing the constitutional project is, however, remarkable in its own right and much less accessible. Not only does it represent an immense effort to solve the theoretical problems of creating a representative democracy; it is also, despite its complexity, a document expressing awareness of the contingencies of the revolutionary crisis and of many of the problems that were to defeat the efforts of Robespierre and the leaders of the Mountain. Condorcet’s speech and the constitution, as printed by order of the Convention, total 48 pages each.
KeywordsTerritorial Division Democratic Theoretician National Representative National Convention Primary Assembly
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