Jean-François Varlet

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Jean-François Varlet (born July 14, 1764 in Paris , † October 4, 1837 in Corbeil , Département Seine-et-Oise ) was a politician during the French Revolution and after the July Revolution of 1830 .


1764 to 1794

Jean-François Varlet was born to wealthy parents. He studied at the Collège d'Harcourt and then worked as an employee in the postal service. Already at a young age he occupied himself with the work of Voltaire , to which he remained connected with great respect throughout his life.

The moderate supporter of royalty only became politically active after the failed flight of Louis XVI. to Varennes from 20./21. June 1791 became known. After Varlet witnessed the massacre on the Marsfeld of July 17, 1791, he turned into a rigorous opponent of the monarchy, Lafayettes and the Feuillants . In the following period he gained great influence in the Parisian section Roi de Sicile (from August 1792 Droits-de-l'Homme), which he was able to expand to all of Paris after participating in the manifestation of June 20, 1792. He then tried to approach the Jacobins , but kept his distance from them because he accused them of anti-democratic behavior and dictatorial structures.

After the overthrow of the monarchy on August 10, 1792, Varlet became a member of the electoral college of the Paris department. He was one of the small group of Enragés ( "the angry" ) who belonged to the extreme left and whose spokesman Jacques Roux was considered. The Enragés demanded, on the one hand, the death penalty for speculators, smugglers and hoarders, but on the other hand also a compulsory rate for the assignats and the setting of maximum prices. After Varlet had written a "program of pure democracy of the people on an egalitarian basis" , he quickly advanced to a leading position in the Paris popular movement. The anti-Girondist uprising of the Parisian sans-culottes on March 9 and 10, 1793, which led to the destruction of the printing works of the politicians and publicists Condorcet and Goursas , is largely due to the initiative of Varlet and Fournier .

Because of this, Varlet, Hébert and others were arrested by the Girondi " Commission of the Twelve " on May 24, 1793, but released on May 27, 1793. Thereupon the Revolutionary Central Committee of the 33 Sections met, which Varlet elected as deputy chairman of an initially nine-person committee, which led the overthrow of the Girondins from May 31 to June 2, 1793. After the Jacobins had consolidated their rule, they began to fight the enragés. Varlet was arrested on September 18, 1793. After his release on November 14, 1793, he lived in secrecy, before he became politically active again on July 27, 1794 ( 9th Thermidor ) after the overthrow of Robespierre, whom he hated .

1794 to 1830

Due to the political defeat of the "left" Thermidorians , Varlet was imprisoned again on September 5, 1794. His freedom he obtained only after the amnesty of the Board on 26 October 1795. In the following years, the former postal workers not to participate operated more on the " Conspiracy of Equals " that of Babeuf , Buonarroti and Darthé was organized rejected he off. In order to survive, he had to sell the family property in Meudon , from the proceeds of which he bought a cheaper house in the Yonne department . In 1798 he married Marie Magdalene Mabire, a young wealthy and educated woman, who earned him a dowry of a thousand books and an inheritance claim to land in Bray-sur-Seine .

In July 1799 he joined the left-wing patriotic arena club, whose program items such as welfare measures for the poor, special taxes for the rich, arming the people or "purifying" the authorities he advocated. But on August 13, 1799, the board of directors had the management club closed because it feared a renewed rule by the Jacobins. Although Varlet was positive about the new ruler Napoleon Bonaparte , he had to move to Meaux in 1800 , where he lived alternately with his stays in Bray-sur-Seine during the consulate and the First Empire under (at least until 1813) no strict police guard. His daughter Julie Varlet was also born in 1800, and a second daughter died at the age of three. In 1814 the Varlet couple decided to have a church wedding, and in 1815 their only son Vincent was born. The Varlet family could only secure their livelihood by selling their land.

As early as January 5, 1814, the "Gazette de France" published an article by Varlet in which he expressed himself benevolently about the generosity of Napoleon I and spoke out against a return of the Bourbons. During the Hundred Days of 1815 Varlet wrote the fable “The Phoenix, the Owl and the Birds of Prey” , in which he dealt with current politics. During the restoration , Varlet often changed his whereabouts and lived under false names for a few years. His true identity was only established by Vidocq , who had been monitoring him back in September 1813.

1830 to 1837

In July 1830, Varlet traveled from his new home in Nantes to Paris, where he still owned a house. He experienced the July Revolution , which led to the overthrow of the Bourbons under Charles X and the formation of the Louis-Philip bourgeois kingdom . Varlet hoped that the political goals of 1789 could be implemented under the new regime. After his return to Nantes in September 1830, however, he was arrested, but released a little later due to resistance from the mayor. After the censorship was relaxed at the beginning of 1831, Varlet began to publish political articles again, including the second part of his fable “The Phoenix, the Owl and the Birds of Prey” or “The Storming of the Bastille in 1789” . He became a member of a republican secret society and a candidate for the Nantes Electoral College, to which he was elected in 1831. He also campaigned for the expansion of the port of Nantes and maritime free trade.

While the police tried again and again to arrest Varlet as an agitator and former revolutionary from 1789, the bourgeoisie of Nantes supported him and thus prevented his arrest. In the bourgeoisie of Nantes there was a philanthropic faction led by Doctor Angel Guepin in 1831, a liberal-moderate wing whose spokesman was Armand Carrell and a petty-bourgeois-proletarian group led by Michel Rocher and Varlet, Varlet because of his age and his activities during the French Revolution enjoyed high esteem throughout the citizenship. The old revolutionary wrote several pamphlets in which he called for social reforms and the implementation of human rights for all people. He also trained workers, fishermen and seamen at secret meetings twice a week. His involvement in the League for Human Rights, a forerunner of the French League for Human Rights from 1898, he had to give up in 1834, as this organization came increasingly under police surveillance. Also since 1834, Varlet had to defend himself against allegations by the authorities, who identified him as one of the people responsible for the unrest and terror of 1793.

In June 1836, the meanwhile impoverished, living on a small pension and on the support of his son, Varlet moved to Corbeil (Département Seine-et-Oise), whose citizens rejected him as a former opponent of the Girondists . The smoldering conflict between the citizens and the Varlet family did not escalate, however, as Jean-François Varlet drowned fishing on October 4, 1837.