November, 1793: Père Duchesne, His Plebeian Appeal
Jacques René Hébert was one of those who found their vocations in the revolution. Hébert found his talent, which was that of a journalist and was superior to his ability as a political leader, which fell short of his ambition. The real Hébert is hard to find behind the mythical figure he used as his spokesman and the name of his newspaper, Père Duchesne mythical because he was already known to the crowds at plebeian fairs in Paris, the way the puppet Guignol is still known to French children, as a corrector of injustice. Père Duchesne was a fierce and honest sans-culotte stove merchant whose foul language, great angers, and great joys as he surveyed the scene of the revolution became known, through Hébert’s talent, to some 10,000 readers, or purchasers—many of whom read aloud to others—of the paper. Hébert—himself an educated man of bourgeois origin who in his youth had failed to find a profession and, from living among the lower classes, had learned their language and aspirations and hates—followed Marat’s example and became an even better reflection of the mentality of the crowds. His fame carried him only as far in politics as the assistantship to the prosecutor of the Commune of Paris, but by expressing sans-culotte views he and the Hébertists were able, in the fall and winter of 1793 to 1794, to challenge the leadership of the Jacobin politicians of the Convention, vulnerable in the great city, as the Girondins had been.
KeywordsGreat City Great Anger Grand Hotel Domiciliary Visit Scattered Passage
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