September, 1796: Théoanthropophile Manual
J. B. Chemin-Dupontès was a bookseller who himself wrote a number of books on morality and religion in the period of the Thermidorian reaction and the Directory. His Manuel des Théoanthropophiles ou adorateurs de Dieu, et amis des hommes; contenant l’exposition de leurs dogmes, de leur morale et de leurs pratiques religieuses. Publié par C. (Paris, 1796, 51 pp.), a pamphlet in tiny format, of which the first part, containing, in the author’s words, “the whole religion of the Théoanthropophiles,” has been translated below, first appeared in September, 1796, and had new editions in 1797 and 1799, and was also translated into Italian. The strange name, taken from the Greek for “who loves God and man,” soon gave way to the more melodious “Théophilanthrope,” itself rather strange, which has since served to identify the unofficial deistic cult. Chemin’s little book and the cult it illustrates enjoyed a certain popularity among educated people and had the support of a number of prominent political leaders of the Directory, particularly the Director Louis La Révellière-Lépeaux, who lectured on Theophilanthropy to the Institute on May 1, 1797, and later in the year participated in the coup of 18 Fructidor against the royalists. The moderate revolutionaries of the Thermidorian Convention and the Directory were still faced with the problem illustrated earlier in this collection by Robespierre’s speech of May 7, 1794: they wanted to associate with their politics a set of religious and moral principles that would provide guidance and inspiration. They had come by a tortuous route to associate the traditional Catholic religion and its institutions with counterrevolution, but their own restrained and rational views, satisfying to a narrow circle of educated people, did not resolve the problem of fitting religion into the new social order in a manner acceptable to the great majority. Theophilanthropy, like the official culte décadaire promoted by the Directory, failed to penetrate very far into the French population. What follows is the first part, pp. 5–30 of Chemin’s book.
KeywordsGood Faith French Revolution Fellow Citizen Good Moral Rational View
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