The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Babeuf, François Noël (1764–1797)

  • A. Courtois
Reference work entry


François Noel Babeuf, called Caius Gracchus, was born in Saint Quentin in 1764 and died at Vendôme on 24 February 1797. Left to his own resources at the age of sixteen, his youth was stormy, and his whole life wild and irregular. From the commencement of the Revolution he wrote in the journal Le correspondant Picard, articles so violent in tone that he was brought to trial. His acquittal, 14th July 1790, did little to calm him. Appointed administrator of the Département of the Somme, he soon had to be dismissed from the office. This was the time at which he took the name of Caius Gracchus, posing as a Tribun du peuple. He gave the same name to a journal, which he had previously carried on under the sub-title of Défenseur de la liberté de la presse. All this took place shortly after the fall of Robespierre from power. This for a time had his approval; but he soon returned to his earlier views and appealed to those violent passions which, as a demagogue, he knew how to rouse. He gathered round him, under the name of the Secte des Egaux, all the old Montagnards who were dissatisfied with the régime of the Thermidorians. The object of this sect, which drew its inspiration from some of the sentimental ideas of J.J. Rousseau, was to destroy inequality of condition, with the object of attaining the general good. Sylvain Maréchal, author of a Dictionnaire des Athées, Buonarroti, who claimed to be descended from Michael Angelo, with Amand and Antonelle, who did not, it is true, remain associated long, and some others, formed the staff which recognised Babeuf as their chief. Working with feverish activity, they gathered round them a considerable number of adherents. The place where their club met was the Pantheon. At first orderly, their meetings became tumultuous and threatening and were prolonged far into the night. Attending armed, they prepared to resist by force the dissolution of the club which the authorities had determined on. General Bonaparte, acting with much tact, contrived to close the meetings of the club, but the members formed themselves forthwith into a secret society, and gradually, by winning over soldiers and police, became a formidable body, numbering nearly 17,000 able-bodied and armed men, without including the Faubourgs Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau, which were at their back. Addressing themselves to the masses, they published a manifesto written by Sylvain Maréchal in his most inflammatory style.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Courtois
    • 1
  1. 1.