messidor

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19 mai 1802 (29 floréal, an X). Fondation de l’ordre de la Légion d’honneur par Napoléon Bonaparte, Premier Consul

La Révolution française avait supprimé ordres et distinctions au nom du principe d’égalité. Mais au lendemain de la Révolution, la création d’une distinction nationale fait partie du programme de réorganisation de la nation de Napoléon Bonaparte, Premier Consul, au même titre que la réforme de l’administration, la rédaction du code civil, ou la fondation de la Cour des comptes.  

 “Je défie qu'on me montre une république ancienne ou moderne dans laquelle il n'y a pas eu de distinctions”, déclare-t-il lors de débats préparatoires très vifs au Conseil d’État, début mai 1802. “Il faut créer un ordre qui soit le signe de la vertu, de l’honneur, de l’héroïsme, une distinction qui serve à la fois la bravoure militaire et le mérite civil.”

 Soumis au vote, le projet de Napoléon est adopté par le Tribunat par 56 voix contre 38, puis le 19 mai 1802 (29 floréal, an X) par le Corps législatif, par 166 voix contre 110. Le décret du 29 floréal porte donc acte de la création d’une Légion d’honneur qui récompense aussi bien les militaires que les civils, et qui rassemble aussi bien le simple soldat que l’éminent scientifique.

 Napoléon s’abstient d’abord de prescrire aux membres de la nouvelle institution le port quotidien d’un insigne, considéré par certains comme une offense au principe d’égalité. Il faut attendre la proclamation de l’Empire, deux ans plus tard, pour que le décret du 11 juillet 1804 (22 messidor, an XII) fixe la première forme de la décoration (dessin ci-contre), à peine deux mois après la proclamation de l’Empire (le 18 mai 1804). Le 15 juillet 1804, l’Empereur procède alors à la première distribution des insignes de la Légion d’honneur en l’église des Invalides au cours d’une fastueuse cérémonie officielle, la première de l’Empire.

 Faisant partie des collections du musée de l’Armée, le collier du grand maître de l’ordre de la Légion d’honneur (que l’on peut apercevoir ici) a appartenu à Napoléon 1er. Sa chaîne en or est formée de seize médaillons représentant les différentes disciplines des membres de l’Ordre (comme l’architecture, les lettres, les sciences, ou encore la marine) et de seize aigles, le tout encadré de deux rangs de chaînons décorés d’abeilles. L’ensemble est réuni par le monogramme  "N" (pour Napoléon).

L’Hôtel de Salm à Paris abrite le siège de la Légion d’honneur depuis 1804, date de son acquisition par le comte de Lacépède, premier grand chancelier de la Légion d’honneur.


Collier de Grand maître de l’ordre de la Légion d’honneur ayant appartenu à Napoléon Ier : © Paris-Musée de l'Armée, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image musée de l'Armée

Premier dessin en couleur de la croix de la Légion d'honneur joint au décret du 22 messidor an XII (11 juillet 1804) : © Archives nationales, AE/II/2342bis

Original du décret de promulgation de la loi portant création et organisation de l'ordre de la Légion d'honneur (première et dernière page du décret, signé par Napoléon) : © Archives nationales, AE/II/2878

Marie Marguerite Charlotte Robespierre (Claude Mazauric)

Arras, 5 February 1760 - Paris, 1 August 1840

The five chapters of Charlotte Robespierre’s Mémoires, published and prefaced by the revolutionary democrat Laponneraye, constitute one of the textual bases of Maximilien’s rehabilitation from the 1830s onwards. In spite of their hagiographical style, the uncertitudes and even the twisting of multiple facts and dates, the Mémoires of Charlotte, which undoubtedly have been rewritten by Laponneraye based on notes and meetings, have been used by all biographies of Maximilien, particularly everything which concerns the years of adolescence, which are rather obscure, and the beginnings of the two brothers.

Having remained in Arras with the younger Augustin after Maximilien’s departure for the Estates-General, Charlotte lived there rather frugally, but experienced a part of the nascent glory of her elder brother passing onto her. In September 1792 she accompanied Augustin, who had just been elected to the Convention by the capital, to Paris, where her jealousy immeditaly led her to come into conflict with the Duplays, in whose home Robespierre lodged. She accompanied Augustin and Ricord on their mission in the South-East, but fell out with Madame Ricord, whom she suspected of being her brother’s mistress, and returned to Paris. In the spring of Year II, her brothers broke off all ties with her because of the intrigues which developed around her, both in Arras, whereto she made a brief journey, and in Paris. Fouché, whom Robespierre rejected, undoubtedly courted her ; the ex-Dantonist Guffroy and the ex-Hébertist Musquinet de Saint-Félix sought to use her. Having been arrested on 13 Thermidor, she was liberated by the Thermidorian Committee of General Security. From 1803 onwards, she received, not a pension, but an aide periodique upon the decision of Bonaparte, who allocated it to the debits of the comptes spéciaux of the Ministry of the Interior, directed by Fouché. However diminished, this aid was upheld by the successive governments until Charlotte’s death.

Charlotte died among those who had accommodated her since Messidor Year II, citizen Mathon and later his daughter, to whom she left some modest pieces of furniture and personal effects : « no furniture, no rentes sur l’Etat, no funds », like all Robespierres.

Being a true figure de sœur, possessive to the point of fury, Charlotte suffered from not having been given love by her brothers at a crucial time of her existence. She survived them by forty-six years, desperately attempting to reconstruct afterwards what no longer existed in Year II. Transfigured by Lapponeraye’s address into a priestess of Robespierrism, Charlotte attained a foothold in the legend.

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(via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0Yo-XldtRg)

Messidor ‎– 115950 ‎– Recorded live at the Beacon Theatre, New York, May 28 1976.
Ray Barretto ‎– Tomorrow: Barretto Live.
Bass – Guillermo Edgehill.
Bata – Ray Romero.
Bongos – Luis Gonzales.
Chorus – Ada Chabrier, Eddie Temporal, Ray De La Paz.
Drums – Raun Barretto.
Flugelhorn – Ite Erez.
Flute – Dick Mesa.
Guiro – Raymond Hernandez.
Guitar – Barry Finnerty.
Piano – Oscar Hernandez.
Congas – Ray Barretto.
Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Wilfredo Velez.
Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Dick Mesa.
Timbales – Jimmy Delgado.
Trombone – Wilfredo Vasquez.
Trumpet – Tony Confresi.

French Republican Calendar

Since you guys liked the clock post so much I decided to make another post about France’s Republican time system. For a few brief years from 1792 to 1806 France dramatically reorganized its dating system and decimalized its calender. The changes included:

  • Making 1789 the year of the French Revolution year 0 on all calenders
  • Dividing the year into 12, 30 day months
  • Each month was divided into 3, 10 day weeks
  • All the days were associated with a type of plant, mineral, tool, or animal( today’s is the box tree)
  • Renaming the months after nature and the weather (here’s a chart of their meanings via Wikipedia)
  • Autumn:
    • Vendémiaire in French (from Latin vindemia, “grape harvest”), starting 22, 23 or 24 September
    • Brumaire (from French brume, “fog”), starting 22, 23 or 24 October
    • Frimaire (From French frimas, “frost”), starting 21, 22 or 23 November
  • Winter:
    • Nivôse (from Latin nivosus, “snowy”), starting 21, 22 or 23 December
    • Pluviôse (from Latin pluvius, “rainy”), starting 20, 21 or 22 January
    • Ventôse (from Latin ventosus, “windy”), starting 19, 20 or 21 February
  • Spring:
    • Germinal (from Latin germen, “germination”), starting 20 or 21 March
    • Floréal (from Latin flos, “flower”), starting 20 or 21 April
    • Prairial (from French prairie, “pasture”), starting 20 or 21 May
  • Summer:
    • Messidor (from Latin messis, “harvest”), starting 19 or 20 June
    • Thermidor (or Fervidor) (from Greek thermon, “summer heat”), starting 19 or 20 July
    • Fructidor (from Latin fructus, “fruit”), starting 18 or 19 August

Ten reasons to switch to the French Republican Calendar immediately:
1) It’s cool
2) Today is Sextidi which sounds like sex today
3) Communism
4) Apparently some straight ppl are doing “”“heterosexual awareness month”“” in July, but there will be no July. What is July? It is Messidor.
5) No 4th of July. 16th of Messidor.
6) Sexy French words
7) Extra metric system
8) About 80% of days are dedicated to funky plants
9) Mathematicians and poets worked really hard on it
10) A 10th reason to make the post more metric

The Committee of Public Safety (F. Brunel)

The trace left in history be the most famous of the Convention’s committees is profound and sometimes unexpected: it was, let us remember, the schemes of a rebellious Committee of Public Safety which presided over the instauration of the Fifth French Republic.

One must not be surprised by the late creation of the committee. While the notion of salut public was one of the founding concepts of the Revolution, the Assembly could fear that the ascendancy of such an institution would be too great, and, at the same time, that it would infringe upon the remit of the Provisional Executive Council and that it would tend towards an autonomy contrary to the principle of legislative centrality. Thus, on 1 January 1793,  the Girondin deputy Kersaint only proposed the establishment of a Comité de défense générale which was to be composed of deputies chosen among the members of the seven committees (War, Marine, Colonies, Finances, Trade, Diplomatic Committee and Constitution Committee). This new committee at first gathered thrice per week, later, from 21 January onwards, every day, even two times per day, at noon and at seven o'clock in the evening. The defeat of Neerwinden and the beginning of the Vendéan insurrection justified the creation of an ephemeral Commission de salut public on 25 March 1793: the term was therefore finally adopted. On 6 April 1793, the Convention decreed, at the end of a long debate, the creation of a Comité de salut public and immediately proceeded to the election of its members by roll-call. The first nine elected members were Barère, Delmas, Bréard, Cambon, Danton, Jean de Bry (who resigned, being replaced by R. Lindet), Guyton-Morveau, Treilhard and Delacroix (d'Eure-et-Loire). They held two sessions per day (at nine o'clock in the morning and seven o'clock in the evening) in the Pavillon de Flore (renamed Pavillon de l'Egalité). On 30 May 1793, the Convention added five deputies charged with presenting the articles of the constitution, Hérault de Séchelles, Ramel, Saint-Just, Mathieu and Couthon. After the fall of the Gironde, the Committee of Public Safety was reorganised: bureaus were created and the affairs were divided into six sections. Enlarged by successive elections, it counted eighteen members on the eve of the new reorganisation of 10 July 1793. On this day, the Convention decided to re-elect nine members by roll-call: these were, elected in this order, Barère, Jeanbon Saint-André, Gasparin, Couthon, Hérault de Séchelles, Thuriot, Prieur (de la Marne), Saint-Just and Robert Lindet. On 27 July, Robespierre replaced Gasparin, who had resigned, and on 14 August, Carnot and Prieur (de la Côte d'Or) were elected. On 6 September 1793, at last, Billaud-Varenne and Collot d'Herbois made their entrance, whereas Danton and Granet refused their election. After Thuriot, in turn, resigned on 20 September, the Committee of Public Safety was the composed of twelve members, Twelve Who Ruled, to use Robert Palmer’s suggestive […] formula.

What one calls the « great Committee of Public Safety » – composed, in fact, of eleven deputies, as Hérault de Séchelles, sent on mission in Alsace, denounced in Frimaire Year II and executed in Germinal, no longer sat there – has aroused the attention of historians. Relying, sometimes uncritically, on post-Thermidorian sources (particularly the Reports of Le Cointre and of Saladin or the Defences of Barère, Billaud and Collot), historiography has erected the committee as the centrepiece of the « Jacobin dictatorship ». One has often paid particular attention to the growing number of its employees (67 in Frimaire, 418 in Prairial Year II), the sign of an undeniable « bureaucratisation », to its agents (such as Eve Demaillot, Pottofeux or the young Jullien, called Jullien de Paris) who had became an executive power independent of the Convention, and, finally, to its Bureau de police générale, whose activities, from Floréal to Thermidor Year II, had largely overflowed onto the duties of the Committee of General Security. All of this demands to be nuanced. First of all, because the law of 14 Frimaire Year II clearly defined the area of competence of the Committee of Public Safety, which was obliged to report to the Convention every month and was composed of deputies who were elected and personally responsible. The decree of 27 Germinal Year II (16 April 1794), which clarified that the supervision of public servants was confided to the Committee and which led to the creation of this bureau de surveillance administrative et de police générale, hardly modified, in this regard, the Law of 14 Frimaire (2nd section, article 2). As to the « rivalry » between the bureau and the Committee of General Security, Arne Ording has demonstrated that it was necessary to moderate it, at least until Messidor Year II, when a conflict undoubtedly broke out about the commissions populaires which had been created in Floréal.

If the Committee of Year II has aroused publications and polemics, it has also reasonably clouded the history of the post-Thermidorian Committee. It has also been accepted that the decree of 7 Fructidor Year II (24 August 1794) deprived it of its essential prerogative, thereby bringing about the « dislocation » of the Revolutionary Government. Yet, reading article I of title II, which defines the new duties of the Committee of Public Safety, this affirmation does not seem to be totally clear. Even if, indeed, it lost « the supervision of the civil administrations », henceforth entrusted to the Committee of Legislation, it retained functions that were no less important, such as the « direction of foreign relations », the planning of campaigns, the levying and organisation of troops, the supervision of the military agents and, together with the Committee of General Security, the possibility to arrest the civil servants who were within its purview and to send them before the Revolutionary Tribunal. Its twelve members were renewable by a quarter every month (like the members of all committees), but ineligible to the two committees of General Security and of Public Safety for at least a month ; they were appointed by roll-call. The names of the deputies who were elected in Year III seem to highlight the persistent and known importance of the committee ; Merlin (de Douai), Boissy d'Anglas, Sieyès, Reubell or Cambacérès, for example, cannot pass for obscure deputies. On 14 Germinal Year III (3 April 1795), the number of its members was increased to sixteen, and on 21 Floréal (10 May 1795), on a proposal of Cambacérès, the Committee of Public Safety recovered a kind of pre-eminence, being declared the only institution capable of issuing legally binding decrees. From Floréal to Fructidor Year III, it was dominated by the moderates and, particularly, by the Girondins who has been reinstated (eight of them sat there on 15 Prairial: Aubry, Defermon, Henry-Larivière, Rabaut-Pornier, Pontécoulant, Gamon, Blad and Vernier, i.e. half of the committee’s members). The last vote, on 15 Vendémiaire Year IV (7 October 1795), was marked by a return of the « Montagnards réacteurs », the election of Chénier, Eschassériaux and Thibaudeau, marking the « anti-royalist » line of the aftermath of the Parisian insurrection.

Thus, until the disbandment of the Convention, the Committee of Public Safety remained one of the essential organs of the Revolutionary Government, and the concern to be elected to it, clearly displayed by the post-Thermidorian leaders, undoubtedly reveals its leading political role.

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“When Saint-Just arrived back in Paris and burst through the doors of the Committee of Public Safety on the night of 10 Messidor (28 June), Robespierre was immensely relieved for both personal and political reasons. Saint-Just brought exciting news. The Revolutionary army had just won a decisive victory against the Austrian army at Fleurus in Belgium. In doing so, it had secured the road to paris against the foreign enemy. The battle of Fleurus was the first in history to be won by use of air surveillance: from a manned air balloon tethered to the ground by two long cables the French had been able to observe the enemy’s tactics from on high.”

— Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity (pg 340)

**gif from Saint-Just et la Force des choses

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the durutti column - messidor - LC

« Revolutionary » Forenames (S. Bianchi)

The practice of giving « revolutionary » or « republican » forenames to newborns remains original in history and maybe unique due to its extent. (The practice concerning revolutionary proper names, on the other hand, was quite marginal.) It was the secularisation of the État civil (20-25 September 1792), a real « peaceful revolution » for family law, which allowed parents to break with the religious secular models. However, no law has encouraged a largely spontaneous phenomenon. One can distinguish from the ensemble the ambiguous forenames, like Rose and Narcisse, which fall under the Christian and republican calendars (but which are much more frequent under the Revolution) and the mixed names, like Pierre-Liberté, more prudent than syncretic (?).

It was in Year II, with the new calendar, that the movement asserted itself, with more than 75% of the total of these new forenames. It proved to be national, but very uneven according to the regions. From less than 10% of the forenames that were given in Year II for western France, the percentage reaches nearly 15% in Seine-et-Marne and more than 33% in the districts of Corbeil, Versailles or Beauvais. The group could represent 150,000 cases among 1,3 million baptisms.

The thematic analysis allows to determine three groups of revolutionary forenames. 1) The loan words in the republican calendar favour attractive plants – Rose, Laurier – and the « warm » months – Floréal, Messidor – (but natural children received the forename of the day of their registration). 2) The references to the Revolution rather celebrate the entities, values and virtues – Liberté, La Montagne, La Vertu – than its « martyrs » – Marat, Bara, Le Peletier – 3) The ancient forenames seem to plebiscite Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic and/or assassin of the tyrant. The ideology, the collective sensibilities, the familial sociology can shed light on such things; they are important for our comprehension of the evolution of the mentalities and have been scorned or marginalised for too long. The reduced percentage of revolutionary forenames thus reveals the failure of the attempt of « regeneration » of Year II, despite the voluntarist attempts of the administrators and representatives en mission. One the other hand, a massive propagation shows an active network of popular societies and the will of large sectors of the population to break with the religious heritage, to rethink space, time, family and everyday life in accord with the Revolution in operation. The patronymic (and toponymic) Revolution bears witness to the « cultural Revolution » or of its failure!

After Thermidor Year II, the legislation was hardened and the practice declined until the law of 11 Germinal Year IX, which forbade every reference to abstract forenames and to inanimate objects in forenames. Even today, relics of these revolutionary forenames evoke a disruption of a conceptual boldness which has not yet been interpreted appropriately.

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Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne.
(Saisi au Château de Versailles le 25 messidor an III / 13 juillet 1795).
30 x 19 cm.
Reliure galuchat noir datée 1684.
Fermoirs métalliques du XVIIe s. au chiffre d'Anne de Bretagne.
Tranches dorées.

Sources : BnF,
Département des manuscrits, latin 9474.