June 25, 1793: Roux Before the Convention
This document, which is the account in the Moniteur of the appearance of Jacques Roux before the Convention and the members’ reception of him and of the delegation he led, is related to conditions of life among the Parisian sans-culottes, and especially among the very poor of the Gravilliers section around the church on the Rue Saint-Martin known as Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, where Jacques Roux was vicar. Roux was a provincial priest who had secured an appointment in Paris and been shocked by the terrible conditions of the urban poor. He has been pictured in many histories as wild and ignorant, a leader—the one most often mentioned—of the enragés neighborhood demagogues who, with little understanding of the economic causes of the people’s distress or of the political possibilities, encouraged primitive impulses in the lower classes to attack shopkeepers, engage in witch hunts for traitors, and overthrow the Convention because it contained men who were middle-class, educated, and different. The elements of truth in this stereotype fall short of the complexities of places such as the Gravilliers section and the mentalities of their residents, which are difficult to reconstruct from their sparse traces and were generally misunderstood by historians before Albert Soboul and others set the example for sociological urban history. Manifestations such as Roux’s visit to the Convention, no doubt imperfectly reported, and Roux himself as an interpreter of the sentiments of largely illiterate parishioners do indicate the existence of a popular movement that was spontaneous and powerful and had to be coped with by the Convention: a movement, indeed, without which the French Revolution would have been much different. Jacques Roux is generally credited with sincerity.
KeywordsLower Class Urban Poor French Revolution Paper Money Social View
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