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 Marat 
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Post Marat
From reading up a little bit, I read that Marat was actually a physician for the family and was in an academy, which he was later expelled from because he was "dishonest." From his disgrace in 1789 he became a journalist and spewed garbage about the monarchy. I find it ironic.

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Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:23 pm
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Post Re: Marat
Marat was a fascinating person. I don't understand him and I don't think many have, even amongst those who like la Montagne. He was a physician and he was actually a personal physician to the Comte d'Artois. He had many aristocratic clients and he was actually a pretty good physician. During this time he was doing experiments with electricity and light. I can't remember exactly what his theory was at the moment, something about metal and the production of electricity. When I was reading about it I remember thinking, well, he was wrong, but given 18th century standards of knowledge about electricity, it wasn't a terrible guess. He kept trying to get this submitted to the Academy of Sciences, which kept rejecting him, partly because he couldn't quite get it to work and partly because it was very much an Old Boys' Club. As a note, it was the Marquis de Condorcet who was the president of the Academy of Sciences and thus was rejecting him and at the time Marat was good friends with Brissot, who was trying to help him get on in the world. There's your irony.

However, Marat was never really accepted into the social circle of his patients as a doctor, nor would the Academy accept him, and he became increasingly bitter. He is a *classic* example of someone who could not find a place for himself under the ancien régime and became disaffected with it, so when the Revolution came around he was quick to take up radical journalism. It wasn't his first foray into those ideas though. Much earlier on, in the 1770s, he wrote a book entitled "The Chains of Slavery" that was an attack on despotism addressed to British readers (He was living in England at the time, I believe he got his medical license at the University of Edinburgh).


Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:00 am
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Post Re: Marat
Yes that is what I read. I didn't know he got his license in Edinburugh. Perhaps the book he wrote in 1770's was sympathetic towards the Scots? Perhaps maybe then he had inspiration to join the French revolution. Thank you for this information dreamoutloud.

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Wed Oct 01, 2008 12:09 pm
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Post Re: Marat
Jean Paul Marat
Ok, so Marat had some type of herpes infection that covered his body.
One teacher said he picked this up from hanging out in sewers while hiding in France.
My question is did he really pick this infection up from sewers? Or did he get the infection naturally?
Jacques-Louis David is famous for his painting of The Death of Marat.


Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:39 pm
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Post Re: Marat
I don't think it was herpes he got from living in the sewers it was a type of skin condition that he had to soak in a bath to soothe irritation from what I recall. I will have to look it up.

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Tue Nov 17, 2009 2:41 pm
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Post Re: Marat
Marat had dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), or Duhring's Disease, according to Wikipedia. It is associated with an intolerance to gluten, so therefore would not be infectious. It also is not herpes, in spite of its name. It is intensely itchy, which is why Marat spent as much time as possible in the bathtub.


Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:18 pm
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Post Re: Marat
Indeed he was having one of his medicinal baths when Charlotte Corday stuck a knife deep in his evil heart!

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Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:56 am
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Post Re: Marat
Bless her!


Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:32 am
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Post Re: Marat
Please forgive me for reviving a long-dead thread, but it serves as an example of something that has been troubling for quite some time. Please, no one take any of what I'm about to say as an insult but I am genuinely...puzzled as to the hero-worship that those of counter-revolutionary bias bequeath to Corday for killing Marat.

At the very best it is hypocritical. At the very worst, it is something far more frightening.

Charlotte Corday has no historical significance beyond her capacity as an assassin. Therefore, those who extol her virtues are extolling the assassination of Marat. In other words: Corday is adored because she killed a man.

But not just any man! it will be argued. She killed Jean-Paul Marat! Okay. But why did Marat deserve to die?

Marat deserved to die, see, because he thought that there were some people who deserved to die.

In case I'm being too subtle, let me be blunt: Someone who supports Charlotte Corday must believe, logically speaking, that there are some people who must be killed in order for society to function.

Some perhaps may have been convinced by Corday's insistence, during her trial, that she killed one man to save 100,000. Since she committed violence in order to avoid a greater violence, she is still a lesser evil. This is all very well, and I can follow the theory of it. But if one believes Corday's logic to be valid than Marat's writings - and indeed, the entire Reign of Terror - must be reevaluated.

Marat wasn't writing an incendiary newspaper for fun. He wasn't advocating violence for violence's sake. He stated from the very beginning: he demanded 1,000 heads so that hundreds of thousands would not have to be removed later. Marat didn't think that he was going to get as much for his investment as Corday did, but at the core they both believed in the same principle: kill a few to save many.

It seems hypocritical to exalt Corday and think Marat to be a lunatic at the same time. One raved in his journal about the benefits of murdering counter-revolutionaries; one took a pilgrimage across the country and tried to extract the benefits of murdering a revolutionary.

...Frankly, looking at it in this context, Marat appears as the more moral of the pair. After all, for all that he was called "the personification of murder" he never physically hurt anyone.

But that's lofty philosophizing. We can ground our condemnation in the practical. We'll never know whether giving Marat the first thousand heads he demanded would have averted the Terror, but we do know that Corday's knife was double-edged.

Before Marat had been killed, the Jacobins hadn't indicated a particular willingness to see the Girondins executed. The Girondins had been stripped of their positions in the Convention but they were only suffering under house arrest and were hardly wasting away in the bowels of the Concierge. Prominent politicians such as Bertrand Barère and Georges Danton had even volunteered to submit themselves as hostages to the provinces so that the fallen party's lives would be guaranteed. Then Marat fell any chance of compromise disintegrated. The Girondins even marched to their execution quipping that "Corday has killed us, but at least she taught us how to die!"

Admittedly, there were other factors behind the government's ultimate decision to try the Girondins. The Federalist Revolts certainly should not be mitigated. But I would wager that compromise and peace would have been far easier to negotiate had Marat not had a knife stuck in his chest.

But okay, fine. Let's say for a moment that the Terror was inevitable and that the evil Jacobins had been plotting from the beginning to murder their Girondin rivals. In this case, killing Marat may not have helped the Girondins, but it didn't really hurt anyone except a bloodthirsty radical who the world is better off without, right?

Let's look at Marat himself. The main death-warranting charge that we could lay against this man's door would be the September Massacres. But did Marat incite them? It is often said, with great authority, that he did, whether intentionally or unintentionally with his violent newspaper.

The last time Marat had even alluded to violence in his journal was a full two weeks before the massacres happened. And he wasn't exactly specific, demanding that everyone storm the prisons and drag alleged counter-revolutionaries into the street and butcher them. No, no, all he said was "rise and let the blood of traitors flow freely again. It is the only means of saving the Fatherland!" Not clement, but to be honest: this is actually a relatively moderate Marat. His pen had been incendiary before - and far moreso - and no one had gotten hurt. This time, a lot of people did...but why do we think Marat's writings suddenly gained the ability to inspire massacre, when previously they had accomplished nothing but getting their author in trouble?

I think blaming anything on "writings" is a stretch, but if we want to blame journalists for the September Massacres, Marat doesn't really meet the criteria. As I said, Marat had demanded some vague orgy of blood two weeks before the bloodshed, so it's not as though a sans-culotte read the sentence, grabbed a pike, and went royalist-killing. And other journalists, such as Danton's friend Fréron, literally wrote in their papers that they thought the people should slaughter the prisoners.

Why focus on Marat?

Marat's behavior at the Commune during the Massacres is certainly less-than-exemplary in that he took few steps to end them, but in this he was no worse than any other government official - including Corday's beloved Girondins. Actually, since Marat went down to one of the prisons and saved one or two lives, the "personification of murder" could lay claim to more mitigating factors than most of his contemporaries!

After that, what did Marat deserve to be stabbed to death for?

Because he had political opinions that are different than Corday's? That's monstrous, to kill a journalist for something like that!

Ah, but maybe, maybe Marat had some great bloody plans for the future! Maybe he was going to send many people to their deaths, push through bloody legislation, give the radicals a voice!

Oh, dear me no. By the time of Marat's assassination, was too ill to attend the Convention's sittings. He wrote to them his opinions but they never read his work aloud. He had served his purpose, for good or ill, and in all likelihood he would have just faded away. There isn't a benefit to killing him...

But there may have been a benefit to sparing him. Assuming that Marat could have kept his journal in circulation through his illness, he may have been moderation's best friend! If you read Marat's writings from immediately before his death, you will see that the blood-drinking anarchist had started to preach moderation. (Moderation being relative, of course.) But the radical Hébertist party had started to pick up steam and Marat was doing battle with them. Marat called them blooddrinkers, he called them lunatics, and he advised that no one pay them any heed.

The Hébertist party's power was in its sway of the mob. Without the mob, the Hébertist party would have disintegrated. And if there was anyone who could have kept the Hébertists from wooing the sans-culottes, that man was Marat. If Marat could have kept his alleged monopoly on the rabble, bloody radicalism would have been strangled in its cradle.

But then he was assassinated, and suddenly Marat's readers become Hébert's readers. Then, just a few months later, these new readers rise in a mob and not only do they force the Law of Suspects (ie: The Law of the Terror) down the throats of the Convention, they manage to cajole the Committee of Public Safety to accept two more members - Billaud-Varennes and Collot d'Herbois.

Compared to these two men, Jean-Paul Marat was an angel of royalist mercy.

Charlotte Corday, in the name of Moderation, murdered who had become Moderation's best hope! She murdered radicalism's worst enemy in order to defeat radicalism! Hébert's ideological heirs should be praising the name of the woman who allowed their hero to play a grand role in politics!

So, to summarize:

For all that Charlotte Corday tried to prevent the Reign of Terror, she was acting under the very mindset that motivated the Terror. And this mindset motivated her to either kill a man who could do no harm, or to kill a man who could have prevented a great evil.

Charlotte Corday, in a way, murdered the more competent version of herself.

I don't see anything to eulogize.

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Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:44 am
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Post Re: Marat
Vive wrote:
At the very best it is hypocritical. At the very worst, it is something far more frightening.

Charlotte Corday has no historical significance beyond her capacity as an assassin. Therefore, those who extol her virtues are extolling the assassination of Marat. In other words: Corday is adored because she killed a man.

But not just any man! it will be argued. She killed Jean-Paul Marat! Okay. But why did Marat deserve to die?

Marat deserved to die, see, because he thought that there were some people who deserved to die.


In case I'm being too subtle, let me be blunt: Someone who supports Charlotte Corday must believe, logically speaking, that there are some people who must be killed in order for society to function.

Some perhaps may have been convinced by Corday's insistence, during her trial, that she killed one man to save 100,000. Since she committed violence in order to avoid a greater violence, she is still a lesser evil. This is all very well, and I can follow the theory of it. But if one believes Corday's logic to be valid than Marat's writings - and indeed, the entire Reign of Terror - must be reevaluated.

Marat wasn't writing an incendiary newspaper for fun. He wasn't advocating violence for violence's sake. He stated from the very beginning: he demanded 1,000 heads so that hundreds of thousands would not have to be removed later. Marat didn't think that he was going to get as much for his investment as Corday did, but at the core they both believed in the same principle: kill a few to save many.

It seems hypocritical to exalt Corday and think Marat to be a lunatic at the same time. One raved in his journal about the benefits of murdering counter-revolutionaries; one took a pilgrimage across the country and tried to extract the benefits of murdering a revolutionary.

...Frankly, looking at it in this context, Marat appears as the more moral of the pair. After all, for all that he was called "the personification of murder" he never physically hurt anyone.

But that's lofty philosophizing. We can ground our condemnation in the practical. We'll never know whether giving Marat the first thousand heads he demanded would have averted the Terror, but we do know that Corday's knife was double-edged.

Before Marat had been killed, the Jacobins hadn't indicated a particular willingness to see the Girondins executed. The Girondins had been stripped of their positions in the Convention but they were only suffering under house arrest and were hardly wasting away in the bowels of the Concierge. Prominent politicians such as Bertrand Barère and Georges Danton had even volunteered to submit themselves as hostages to the provinces so that the fallen party's lives would be guaranteed. Then Marat fell any chance of compromise disintegrated. The Girondins even marched to their execution quipping that "Corday has killed us, but at least she taught us how to die!"

Admittedly, there were other factors behind the government's ultimate decision to try the Girondins. The Federalist Revolts certainly should not be mitigated. But I would wager that compromise and peace would have been far easier to negotiate had Marat not had a knife stuck in his chest.

But okay, fine. Let's say for a moment that the Terror was inevitable and that the evil Jacobins had been plotting from the beginning to murder their Girondin rivals. In this case, killing Marat may not have helped the Girondins, but it didn't really hurt anyone except a bloodthirsty radical who the world is better off without, right?

Let's look at Marat himself. The main death-warranting charge that we could lay against this man's door would be the September Massacres. But did Marat incite them? It is often said, with great authority, that he did, whether intentionally or unintentionally with his violent newspaper.

The last time Marat had even alluded to violence in his journal was a full two weeks before the massacres happened. And he wasn't exactly specific, demanding that everyone storm the prisons and drag alleged counter-revolutionaries into the street and butcher them. No, no, all he said was "rise and let the blood of traitors flow freely again. It is the only means of saving the Fatherland!" Not clement, but to be honest: this is actually a relatively moderate Marat. His pen had been incendiary before - and far moreso - and no one had gotten hurt. This time, a lot of people did...but why do we think Marat's writings suddenly gained the ability to inspire massacre, when previously they had accomplished nothing but getting their author in trouble?

I think blaming anything on "writings" is a stretch, but if we want to blame journalists for the September Massacres, Marat doesn't really meet the criteria. As I said, Marat had demanded some vague orgy of blood two weeks before the bloodshed, so it's not as though a sans-culotte read the sentence, grabbed a pike, and went royalist-killing. And other journalists, such as Danton's friend Fréron, literally wrote in their papers that they thought the people should slaughter the prisoners.

Why focus on Marat?

Marat's behavior at the Commune during the Massacres is certainly less-than-exemplary in that he took few steps to end them, but in this he was no worse than any other government official - including Corday's beloved Girondins. Actually, since Marat went down to one of the prisons and saved one or two lives, the "personification of murder" could lay claim to more mitigating factors than most of his contemporaries!

After that, what did Marat deserve to be stabbed to death for?

Because he had political opinions that are different than Corday's? That's monstrous, to kill a journalist for something like that!

Ah, but maybe, maybe Marat had some great bloody plans for the future! Maybe he was going to send many people to their deaths, push through bloody legislation, give the radicals a voice!

Oh, dear me no. By the time of Marat's assassination, was too ill to attend the Convention's sittings. He wrote to them his opinions but they never read his work aloud. He had served his purpose, for good or ill, and in all likelihood he would have just faded away. There isn't a benefit to killing him...

But there may have been a benefit to sparing him. Assuming that Marat could have kept his journal in circulation through his illness, he may have been moderation's best friend! If you read Marat's writings from immediately before his death, you will see that the blood-drinking anarchist had started to preach moderation. (Moderation being relative, of course.) But the radical Hébertist party had started to pick up steam and Marat was doing battle with them. Marat called them blooddrinkers, he called them lunatics, and he advised that no one pay them any heed.

The Hébertist party's power was in its sway of the mob. Without the mob, the Hébertist party would have disintegrated. And if there was anyone who could have kept the Hébertists from wooing the sans-culottes, that man was Marat. If Marat could have kept his alleged monopoly on the rabble, bloody radicalism would have been strangled in its cradle.

But then he was assassinated, and suddenly Marat's readers become Hébert's readers. Then, just a few months later, these new readers rise in a mob and not only do they force the Law of Suspects (ie: The Law of the Terror) down the throats of the Convention, they manage to cajole the Committee of Public Safety to accept two more members - Billaud-Varennes and Collot d'Herbois.

Compared to these two men, Jean-Paul Marat was an angel of royalist mercy.

Charlotte Corday, in the name of Moderation, murdered who had become Moderation's best hope! She murdered radicalism's worst enemy in order to defeat radicalism! Hébert's ideological heirs should be praising the name of the woman who allowed their hero to play a grand role in politics!

So, to summarize:

For all that Charlotte Corday tried to prevent the Reign of Terror, she was acting under the very mindset that motivated the Terror. And this mindset motivated her to either kill a man who could do no harm, or to kill a man who could have prevented a great evil.

Charlotte Corday, in a way, murdered the more competent version of herself.

I don't see anything to eulogize.


That's very true indeed. I had never considered things this way, at least spelled them out this way, although I have always staunchly disapproved of Corday.

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Last edited by Ludy on Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:43 am, edited 1 time in total.



Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:30 am
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Post Re: Marat
Charlotte Corday's act was indeed for many a heroic act, as she was standing up for the provinces against what she saw as Parisian violence spreading out its' evil influence, as she rightly said she was a democrat long before the Revolution, a true patriot who was willing to die for her country and she dispelled of a rabble rousing violent populist in the best possible fashion. If we are to believe what she tells us, the words that steeled her resolve, which was somewhat waning as she felt some pity standing before the sick man that had become Marat, was when after giving him the names of the Girondins traitors he assured her they would all be on the scaffold within days.

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Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:45 pm
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Post Re: Marat
So when Charlotte Corday kills Marat to prevent him from killing people she's a hero?

But when Marat proposes the death of counter-revolutionaries to prevent them from killing people he's the villain?

Sorta like how when the Girondins expel the Jacobins from the government of Lyons they are uprooting tyranny, but when one day later the Jacobins return the favor in Paris they're dictators? I bring this up in reference to the Federalist Revolts and Civil War, which is always laid at Marat's door due to his role in the May/June uprising. This is a valid charge, but it is equally so when it comes to the Girondins, as they were doing the same thing in the provinces. When both parties are playing at Civil War and are using the same means to aggrandize it, condemning one for engaging it while exalting the others seems that there isn't an objection to violence or tyranny intrinsically. But rather that our objection is in terminology. Violence and tyranny are great as long as a Girondin is organizing it, rather than a Jacobin. Okay, all very well and fine but few would confess that their sympathies are motivated solely by the ideological.

As to your point about Charlotte Corday being willing to die for her country - no one, contemporarily, ever seriously doubted that Marat's patriotism was genuine, even if some believed that his love was more harmful than hate. He would have been willing to die for France, just as Corday was. A willingness to die for your country does not necessarily give you the right to kill. At least, I don't think so, but Sophie Wahnich wrote a book called "In Defence of the Terror" where she defends the Terror using much this mindset. Dear me Baron, I think Carrier, Collot, Billaud, and all the men of the Terror were willing to die for their country. If a willingness to die translates into a license to kill you cannot condemn one single execution of the Reign of Terror!

And I can't help but wonder if you actually read my post. "Rabble rouser" or not had Marat lived there would have been one of two results:

1. Either he would be too sick to have any sway on politics at all, in which to kill him is fruitless

or

2. He would have been swaying the mob in favor of moderation, in which to kill him is in direct opposition to Charlotte Corday's goals.

I have no doubt that she meant well. But to me, Corday looks like nothing more than a self-important idiot who didn't understand that political situation of the time. I myself am no pacifist and I wouldn't be quarreling with her if she had assassinated say, Hébert. The Girondins mumbled that she should have killed Robespierre. But absolutely no one, except for the most bloody radicals that were even making Robespierre squirm, thought that killing Marat had done anyone any good! As I said: a royalist or Girondin should't be praising Corday. Hébertists should. (Although when I told an anachronistic Hébertist sympathizer of my theory he just sniffed indignantly and hissed, "We don't want her!)

And I know that Corday insisted that Marat delightedly hissed "they will soon be guillotined." If he did, that was a mistake on his part but considering that at this juncture the Federalist Revolts had begun I don't find the comment particularly vicious. The Girondins had killed Chalier, imprisoned Jacobins, etc. It was open war and they were talking all over the Provinces about killing him.

Can it not also be said that when Marat had first heard a mob - organized by the Girondins - thundering through Paris demanding the heads of the "triumvirate" Danton, Marat, and Robespierre, that it may have "steeled his nerve" when it came to advocating the execution of the Girondins? And this mob was well before the Terror, incidentally: November 1792. Oh, the September Massacres happened but as I said, Marat's role has been wildly exaggerated and he was no more directly culpable...than...than the Girondins.

When the Girondins point their accusing fingers at Marat there are four fingers pointing straight at them.

But if he said "they will soon be guillotined" it was foolish, all things considered. But it was also untrue. He hadn't the authority to have anyone guillotined at the time of his death. The government wasn't listening to him. Oh, they would have loved to hear his information on the Girondin runaways but he would have had no influence over the subsequent trials. As I said: his star was on the decline in government.

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Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:38 pm
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Post Re: Marat
Vive wrote:

I have no doubt that she meant well. But to me, Corday looks like nothing more than a self-important idiot who didn't understand that political situation of the time.




There are two main reasons, in my book, why Charlotte Corday is still enjoying a special place among the cohort of all the political terrorists throughout History.

The acts of political terrorism resorted to by isolated individuals was often seen as heroic throughout the XIX century. There were quite a handful of political crimes committed throughout the XIX century (most of them admittedly by anarchists), and the political terrorist himself was often seen as a romantic lone wolf, whose action, because he acted on his own, were deemed courageous.

The second reason is to be found in what is called the XIX century “judicial romanticism”. It consisted ein displaying more leniency towards women than men with respect to criminal charges. This is the seamy side of chauvinism: because women are weak and by nature inferior to men (they are passionate beings, unable of rational thoughts), their crimes seemed somehow excusable.

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Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:21 am
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Post Re: Marat
That's an interesting thought. You've inverted the common thread that I tend to see in Royalist works in reference to Charlotte Corday. They argue, and not completely without merit, that Corday's harsh treatment by the Revolutionaries was due to her sex. That is, the Republicans sneered so at the women that they could not believe one could have the gumption to commit a murder without the guidance of a man.

As I said, I won't debate this point - the 18th century was a comparatively chauvinistic time and the Revolutionaries' beloved "equality" did not include women. But I suppose the royalist canonization of the assassin is just an inversion of the Jacobin scorn. Would we be speaking of Corday with such fondness if, instead of being a young attractive woman she had been a great burly man? The "seamy side of chauvinism": I enjoy the turn of phrase. And thinking about it, I don't think a Charles Corday would be so exalted.

Philippe Nicolas Marie de Pâris, the Jacobin Lepelletier's assassin, receives no such appreciation.

...But to be fair, Pâris avoided execution by fleeing into Normandy, and Lepelletier was no Marat...

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Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:51 pm
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Post Re: Marat
Yes that is what I meant. My point was more related to the way she was considered by the Royalist throughout the 19th century.

It is often claimed for instance, that she faltered but found enough pluck to stab Marat upon hearing him list the names of her friends. This is typical of this thinking, according to which women are weak and passionate being, unable of rational thinking : Charlotte acted only through passion and is seen as almost motherly towards her companions, whom she wanted to protect.

In truth however, Charlotte's crime was carefully thought out and premeditated. The blow she dealt was so precise that the judges were suspicious of her, believing she had committed previous crimes, or at least trained herself extensively (which I she had).

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Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:24 am
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