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Grands Hommes et Grands Faits

de la Révolution Française

(Great Men and Great Events of the French Revolution)

by Augustin Challamel and Désiré Lacroix


Editor: René Janray

Lefebvre et Gillet - FAC-AP

Brussells, 1988



The
original edition published by
Combet et Cie, Ancienne Librairie Furne:

The text has not been updated since the first edition; thus many articles have mistakes and even typographical errors. The article on Collot d'Herbois contains a number of factual mistakes. To start with, his birth year is given as 1750 (should be 1749), and the date of death is stated to be 18 January 1796 (should be 8 June 1796). Further, the article states that Collot was at one time an 'oratorien', i.e. a member of the Oratoire, an educational religious order. There is no support or evidence for this claim.

It is unlikely that Collot was in Switzerland at the start of the Revolution in 1789. Collot was probably in Lyon where he was the director of the city's theatre until spring 1789.

Finally, the statement that Collot committed suicide on arrival to Cayenne, is entirely without foundation. Collot d'Herbois died of a fever on 8 June 1796, eleven months after his arrival in Guiana.

The portrait of Collot which accompanies the article is an engraving (gravure sur bois) signed with initials H. R. and E. T.

Name 'H. Rousseau' features in the list of the artists whose works were used in the illustation of the Album, however it seems unlikely that the artist in question might be Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), his style differing considerably from that of the portrait.

As for the initials
E. T., they give us the name of the engraver: E. Thomas.

Trial of the King at the National Convention, January 1793. Collot díHerbois is shown in the uppermost row, on the benches occupied by the deputies of the Mountain party, left bottom corner. Collot is leaning forward to speak with Billaud-Varenne.

Collot was absent on mission for most of the Louis's trial but he returned in time to take part in the vote on the sentence. He voted in favour of death within 24 hours.

The demolitions were ordered by the decree of the Convention, as a "punishment" for the rebellious city of Lyon after it rose in arms against the Republic and its revolutionary government in Paris. Most of the buildings selected for demolition were ones that had been damaged by the artillery fire during the siege, so that they needed to be pulled down in any event. Pulling down the dangerously damaged buildings and clearing the rubble were important tasks that needed to be completed before the city could begin to rebuild itself. Employment of the city's thousands of jobless was another immediate need that the demolition works temporarily fulfilled.

Though entitled Collot d'Herbois Overseeing The Demolition Of Buildings in Bellecour Square, the above engraving does not afford a prominent place to Collot d'Herbois. The central figure on horseback is probably an officer of the Revolutionary Army, he is wearing a military uniform and has a moustache. At the forefront, a sans-culotte with a Phrygian cap is addressing the onlookers. Collot d'Herbois might be one of the two Representatives on mission seen in the background with tricolor scarves bound around their waist, and sporting tricolor plumes in their hats.

The engraving is signed with initials F. Th. in the bottom left corner. The signature points to Félix Philippoteaux as the author (designer) of the drawing. J. Ladmiral sc. gives us the name of the engraver. Sc. is an abbreviation of sculpsit which is Latin for "made".

The Great Committee of Public Safety. From left to right, clockwise: Saint-Just (standing), Robespierre, Couthon, Billaud-Varenne, Lindet (standing), Collot d'Herbois, Barère, Prieur de la Côte d'Or (standing), Carnot.

The engraving was executed by E. Bure after Lix Philippoteaux's drawing.

The last engraving, representing the 9th Thermidor at the Convention, hardly needs lengthy comments. Collot d'Herbois is above the rostrum. The tricolor scarf he is wearing designates him as the President. One might note that he is not ringing the bell as Robespierre is struggling to keep hold of the rostrum. The familiar cliché of Collot d'Herbois using the bell to drown out Robespierre's voice is not confirmed by the contemporary accounts. It is time to "take it out of circulation" according to Gérard Walter (see Wikipedia Chute de Robespierre)

9 Thermidor at the Convention

9 Thermidor at the Convention

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