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Murdered Marat. © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Gérard Blot / Christian Jean
Charlotte Corday murders Marat
Charlotte Corday murders Marat. © RMN-Grand Palais (musée La Piscine) / Arnaud Loubry
Jean-Paul Marat, a popular hero of the Revolution, was born to a Sardinian father and Calvinist mother from Geneva. He studied science and medicine in France before going on to practice in England, where he published a number of philosophical essays, including Les Chaînes de l'esclavage (1774). Settled in Paris (1776), as physician to the guards of the Count of Artois, he drafted a Plan de législation criminelle (1780) in which he proposed profound reforms to the justice system.
Le Publiciste parisien, founded by Marat on the 12th of September 1789, which quickly assumed the title of L'Ami du Peuple, and the motto of which was Vitam impendere vero ("Devote your life to the truth"), was a publication that he wrote entirely himself, and which was more of a periodical pamphlet than a daily newspaper. Since the beginning of the Revolution, Marat had become a journalist known in Jacobin circles, and one of the most influential theorists with the people of Paris, defending increasingly radical measures. His journal, L'Ami du people, became the organ of active minorities, who were behind the major revolutionary days of 5th and 6th of October 1791, 17th of July 1791 and10th of August 1792, the massacres of September 1792 and the fall of the Girondins in the spring of 1793.
But once elected to the National Convention, sitting as a Montagnard to the extreme left of the Assembly, Marat attracted the hatred of the Girondins, going on to triumph over them. The hatred that he inspired ended in his assassination by Charlotte Corday on the 13th of July 1793.