10 Leaders of the French Revolution

French Revolution was able to be one of the biggest revolutions of all time being led by various leaders. All the leaders acted as an idol for the citizens to look up to as the face of the revolution.  

The political class during the French Revolution was divided into the radical Montagnards and the Moderate Girondins having many leaders or rebels to make the revolution a considerable success. 

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes’s writings brought a significant change and led to propelling France in the path of Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte, George Danton, and Lazare Carnot played a vital role in the French Revolution.

10 important leaders of the French Revolution are: 

10. Georges Danton( 1759 – 1794 )

Georges Danton( 1759 - 1794 )

Goerges Danton was born to an attorney, Jacques Danton and his second wife, Marie-Madeleine Camus, on October 26, 1759. He had the degree of Law (1784) and was married to Antoinette Charpentier.

Becoming the leader of a famous club – The Cordeliers Club, he was able to make his club well-known based during the French Revolution, on political force as he was generously lenient and was liked by the people. 

Dominating his colleagues with the ability to make efficient decisions, and with strong character, he was able to overthrow the French Monarchy and establish the First French Republic ( Sept 21, 1792). He became the first president of the Committee of Public Safety on April 7, 1793.

Though taken as a hero under the Third Republic, he had some controversies related to his wealth and his dishonesty, which was not proved due to lack of proper documentation.

However, he was guillotined on April 5, 1794, along with his many friends. Before his death, he told the executioner to show his head to the people as it was worth the trouble.

9. Jacques Pierre Brissot( 1754- 1793)

Lazare Carnot ( 1753- 1823)

Jacques Pierre Brissot was born to an innkeeper, on January 15, 1754. He worked at Chartres and Paris as a law clerk. Later he got involved in literature and shifted to London and got married to Felicite Dupont.

Being the leader of the Girondins(Brissotins), who were against the radical-democratic Jacobins, made many pamphlets against the then government and the queen for which he was imprisoned, for about four months, and released on September 1784.

In February 1788, became the founder of society along with his friends of Black, which was against slavery. He gave a speech about his foreign policy attacking King Louis XVI’s inviolability to the Jacobins on July 10, 1791.

He then was elected as the head of the Legislative Assembly, during the Declaration of Pillnitz, where Austria and Prussia warned French people not to harm King Louis XVI. He was a member of the diplomatic committee due to his knowledge about foreign affairs.

During the French Revolution, he was on the side that only war could bring Revolution and unmask the enemies. So, he declared war against Austria on April 20, 1792. The Jacobin leader Maximilien Robespierre did not approve his philosophy.

The Revolutionary tribunal captured him from Moulins and brought him to Paris. ultimately he was sentenced on October 30, 1793. 

8. Lazare Carnot ( 1753- 1823)

Lazare Carnot ( 1753- 1823)

Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, Count Carnot was born to Claude Carnot and Marguerite Pothier on May 13, 1753, in Nolay. He graduated from Engineering College and later obtained a commission as a lieutenant in an engineer corps and was married to Jacqueline Sophie Dupont.

Entering into politics during the French Revolution (1789), resulted in making him a delegate to the Legislature(1791) and being selected in the committee for public instruction.

Favouring the education of the people, he made many reforms in the educational systems, though they were not implemented due to the unfavourable condition.

In 1792, he was elected to the National Convention where he stayed for a few months on a mission to Bayonne and he organized the military defence which could protect them from attacks made by Spain.

Being elected in the Committee of Public Safety on August 14, 1793, he was responsible for creating and enforcing the discipline of the French Revolutionary Army.

Lazare Carnot was appointed the governor of Antwerp and was serving Napoleon Bonaparte. With the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, Louis XVIII exiled Carnot for life, and he died in Prussian on August 2, 1823.

7. Marquis de Lafayette (1757 – 1834)

Marquis de Lafayette (1757 - 1834) french revolution

Marquis de Lafayette was born in a noble military lineage family on September 6, 1757, in France, married Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles and joined the Royal Army after the death of his father and mother in the year 1771.

A passionate person who was ready to serve his nation for free led him to be named as a major-general in the Continental Army by the colonial leaders.

Being appointed to the Assembly of Notables and serving as a deputy for the Second Estate in 1787, brought numerous changes. He then joined the National Assembly and ultimately became vice president in 1789. 

He was again made the commander-in-chief of the National Guard on July 15, 1789, where he served and led the draft and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.

However, he was taken as a traitor after he tried to rally troops to march on Paris, which made him think as a loss of revolution. He surrendered himself to Prussians and Austrians in August and stayed in detention till 1797.

Marquis de Lafayette died on May 20,1834 due to pneumonia.

6. Marie Gouze(1748 – 1793)

Marie Gouze(1748 - 1793)

Marie Gouze, born to Anne Olympe Mouisset Gouze and Pierre Gouze, was born on May 7, 1748, in Montauban, France. The name Olympe de Gouges also call her.  

Being one of the first women who fought for equal rights and standing firm against discrimination, violence, and oppression; led her to campaign for the women’s rights for the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in the year 1791.

Various pamphlets and posters were published and shared all over Paris, to make her political voice heard. She fought against injustice, slavery, the death penalty, bias taxation, dictatorships, corruption, inequality, and respected humankind.

Taking the side of Girondins and defending Louis XVI, allowed citizens to choose their form of government. She was arrested in 1793, after the fall of the Girondins, and was guillotined in Paris on November 3, 1793.

5. Marie Antoinette(1755- 1793)

Marie Antoinette(1755- 1793) french revolution

Marie Antoinette, born to Holy Roman Emperor, Francis I and Empress- Queen Maria Theresa, on 2nd November 1755, was married to Louis XVI(1770).

After the death of her father-in-law, King Louis XV, she was made the Queen and is known to be part of the decline in the moral authority of the French Monarchy during the last years of the Ancien Regime.

People of France did not consider her as their queen instead treated her as a stranger, as she was from Austria. People even nicknamed her as Madame deficit, for in the time of financial crisis she spent lavishly on gambling, luxuries, parties, and dresses.

With the rage of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette developed an alliance with the most valued lawmaker in the assembly, Honore Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau. She started negotiating secretly for the retirement of the King’s authority.

On October 16.1793, she was found guilty of the charges: conspiracy against the security of the State, high treason because of her intelligence activities in the interest of the enemy, and depletion of the national treasury. She was guillotined on October 16, 1793

4. Maximilien Robespierre(1758 – 1794)

french revolution leader Maximilien Robespierre(1758 - 1794)

Maximilien Robespierre was born in Artois, France, on May 6, 1758. He was a smart child and following his father’s footsteps, and he studied Law in Paris.

Being elected as a deputy of the Third Estate by the commoners in 1789, he fought and wrote papers protesting in support of the commoners and against the rule of the upper class.

As the spokesperson of the National Assembly and supported the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

In the year 1793, France was facing numerous problems: food riots in Paris, threats from European Armies, the surrender of the Mediterranean base at Toulon to the British, and a revolt by the peasant in the southwest. 

Though, he was facing daunting challenges such as crushing of revolution by the Royal Navy. He stood strong leading the committee of safety, he was determined to rule.

He was beheaded on July 28, 1794, along with his 22 followers and is remembered as a champion of the politically oppressed, weak, and destitute.

3. Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes(1748 – 1836)

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes(1748 - 1836)

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, also known as Abbe Sieyes, was born to a notary of Frejus on May 3, 1748. He was a  writer and a clergyman.

Ideologies of the political thinkers during the Age of Enlightenment had a significant influence on Emmanuel Joseph. He wrote a pamphlet with a title What is the Third Estate? Which Included the want of genuine representatives in the governing nation.

Though Sieyes was voting for the execution of the King in January 1793, he backed up from the politics when Jacobin Club seized control of Revolution( June 1793 ).

Later served on the Committee of Public Safety for about six months in 1795 and in October, was appointed to the Council of Five Hundred and was able to win a seat on the Directory, France’s ruling executive board.

He collaborated with Joseph Fouche, Napoleon Bonaparte, and C.M de Talleyrand to help organize the military coup d’etat which was able to overthrow the Directory on 18 Brumaire on November 9, 1799.

In 1815, when Napoleon returned to power for a short period, Sieyes gained the name in the Chamber of Peers. But, he was expelled from the Academy of Political and Moral Sciences in 1816, by King Louis XVIII.

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes died on June 20, 1836, at the age of 88, in Paris.

2. Jean-Paul Marat( 1743 – 1793)

Jean-Paul Marat, born to Jean Mara on May 24, 1743, in Boudry near Neuchatel, Switzerland, was a French politician, journalist, and a physician.

Publications of notorious, fierce, radical, and aggressive writings helped bring the violent phase in the Revolution, which made him the most influential journalist of the French Revolution. 

Fighting for the fundamental human rights for the French people, also made people idolize him from his publication L’Ami du Peuple, meaning The Friend of the People (1789). Also published a pamphlet Offrande a la Patrie meaning Offering our Country which was indicating that Monarchy could solve the problems of France.

Later, became a part of many revolutionary events which includes suspension of Monarchy, Women’s March on Versailles, and the September Massacres. He was advocating prevention against aristocrats who were trying to bring down the Revolution.

Though the National Assembly sentenced him, Marat kept on campaigning. In 1790-1791, he came up with the idea of the abolishment of Monarchy and declared the king ‘ unworthy to remount the throne’ when Louis XVI tried to flee ( June 1791).

He was stabbed to death on July 13, 1793, by a young Girondin supporter who was from Normandy. He was then declared as a Martyr to people’s cause.

1. Napoleon Bonaparte(1769-1821)

Napoleon Bonaparte(1769-1821)

Napoleon Bonaparte was born to Carlo Buonaparte and his wife Leticia Ramolino, on August 15, 1769. He graduated from the military academy in September 1785.

Appointed as the first lieutenant to the 4th regiment of artillery, garrisoned at Valence, later joined a debating society, Jacobin Club, who favoured the monarchy, he was made a president.

Commanding a French army in 1796, got victory over the armies of Austria. Again in 1799, he became the part of an event known as the coup of 18 Brumaire who overthrew the French Directory.

As the first consul and the first leading political figure, his forces were able to defeat the Austrians in June 1800 and expelled them out of Italy.

Also became the leader of many campaigns – which were against the Coalition of European countries. Later in 1804, became the Emperor of France and led the European power.

On March 30, 1814, Napoleon surrendered himself and was exiled to Elba from France. He returned to Paris after a year and was defeated at Waterloo.

He died on May 5, 1821, due to stomach cancer.

Conclusion:

French Revolution was made possible with the strength, ideologies, courage, and skill of the leaders. With the strategies and the heroic thoughts, the leaders made it possible to make the French Revolution a huge success.

Leaders like Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, Georges Danton, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lazare Carnot, Marquis de Lafayette, and Jacques Pierre Brissot played vital roles during the French Revolution. They all had significant roles in the overall phase of this revolution.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "10 Leaders of the French Revolution," in HistoryTen, November 20, 2019, https://historyten.com/french-revolution/french-revolution-leaders/.
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