Antoine Barnave

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Antoine Barnave (painting by Joseph Boze , 1791).
Barnave's signature:
Signature Antoine Barnave.PNG

Antoine-Pierre-Joseph-Marie Barnave (born October 22, 1761 in Grenoble , † November 29, 1793 in Paris ) was a French politician during the French Revolution .



He came from a Protestant family; his father was a lawyer in the Parliament of Grenoble , and his mother, good provenance. His mother trained him because as a Protestant he could not go to school. At twenty-two, he drew attention to himself by speaking to the local parliament about the separation of powers . The Dauphiné was one of the first provinces where the excitement of the upcoming revolution could be felt; and Barnave was one of the first to give a voice to the general mood with the pamphlet Esprit des édits enregistrés militairement on May 20, 1788. He and his father were immediately elected to the Dauphiné Estates Assembly, where he played a leading role in debates.


A few months later, shortly after the convening of the Estates General in Versailles on May 5, 1789 , Barnave was elected as a member of the Third Estate in his home province. He soon made an impression on the congregation and made friends with most of the leaders of the popular party. With Adrien Duport and Alexandre Lameth he formed the group that was referred to as the "Triumvirate" during the Constituent Assembly ( Constituent Assembly ). He took part in the discussion of the demands of the three estates and drafted the first petition to the king. He supported Sieyès ' suggestion that the assembly should be called the National Assembly. Until 1791 he was a major member of what would later become known as the Jacobin Club , and he wrote its manifesto and rules.

Antoine Barnave: Bust of Jean-Antoine Houdon , Musée de Grenoble

Although he was a passionate advocate of freedom, he hoped to secure the independence of France and the monarchy at the same time. But he was carried away by the political currents of the time and participated in the attacks on the monarchy, the clergy, the church property and the provincial parliaments. Apart from Mirabeau , he was the most powerful speaker in the National Assembly. On several occasions he was in opposition to Mirabeau. After storming the Bastille , he tried to save the throne. He advocated the suspensive veto and the establishment of jury trials in civil matters, but voted with the left against the bicameral system. His passionate argument with Mirabeau and Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazalès over the question of whether the king had the right to decide on war and peace (May 16-23, 1790) is considered to be one of the most remarkable scenes in the history of the National Assembly. Barnave advocated the democratic stand against the sole right of the king.

In August 1790, after a heated debate, he fought a duel against Cazalès, in which he was slightly wounded. At the end of October he was appointed President of the National Assembly. When Mirabeau died a few months later, he acknowledged his service to the community and referred to him as the Shakespeare of the art of speaking. When the royal family was arrested in Varennes after they tried to escape , he was one of the three commissioners who escorted them back to Paris . On the trip he was deeply moved by the fate of Marie Antoinette and decided to do what he could to help her. In one of the most powerful speeches he asserted the inviolability of the king's person.


His public career came to an end with the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, and in early 1792 he returned to Grenoble. His sympathy and relations with the royal family, to whom he had presented a plan for counter-revolution, and his desire to stop the advancing revolution, brought him under suspicion of treason. He was denounced in the National Assembly (August 15, 1792), arrested and imprisoned in Grenoble for ten months , then transferred to Fort Barraux and in November 1793 to Paris. On November 28, he appeared before the Revolutionary Tribunal and was sentenced on the basis of compromising papers found in the Palais des Tuileries . The next day he was guillotined .


  • Oeuvres de Barnave. Publiées par Mme St-Germain, sa soeur. Mises en ordre et précédées d'une Notice historique sur Barnave par M. Bérenger de la Drome. Paris, Jules Chapelle et Guiller, 1843. 4 volumes with facsimiles. CXL + 288 p., 408 p., 390 p., 424 p.
  • Eberhard Schmitt (Ed.): Antoine Barnave: Theory of the French Revolution , Munich: Fink 1972

Individual evidence

  1. Jules Michelet: History of the French Revolution, Vol. 1, Frankfurt / Main 1988, p. 303ff

Web links

Commons : Antoine Barnave  - collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Philippe-Antoine Merlin President of the National Assembly
October 25, 1790 - November 8, 1790
Charles-Antoine Chasset