Marat: The King Is a Friend of the People (29 December 1790 and 17 February 1791)


Marat: The King Is a Friend of the People (29 December 1790 and 17 February 1791)


Through his newspaper, the Friend of the People, Jean–Paul Marat was one of the leading radical voices of the early years of the Revolution. Yet he also thought France had to have a king; his goal—evident in this passage—was to encourage "the people" to keep pressure on the King (and the National Assembly) to offset the influence of royal ministers and courtiers.


L'Ami du Peuple, no. 324 (29 December 1790), and no. 374 (17 February 1791).


December 29, 1790





In December 1790, Marat berates the King as follows:

. . . I judge you by your past conduct; I judge you for yourself. Tell me, what confidence would we have in the word, in the protestations, in the oaths of a king who had summoned the nation only to engage it to fill the abyss dug by the wastefulness of his ministers, of the household princes, of his favorites, and of the other scoundrels of his court; of a king who tried to dissolve the National Assembly as soon as he found some opposition to his wishes; of a king who worked six weeks, and quite cold-bloodedly, at the execution of a terrible plan to put the capital to fire and sword, in order to punish its unfortunate inhabitants for the generous support that they seemed to promise the representatives of the nation against the attacks of despotism; of a king who was prepared to renounce his terrible plans, only when he saw the people up in arms, ready to take justice into their own hands; of a king who, in defiance of his most solemn oaths, and almost at the very time that he had just secured his pardon from a generous people, gave ear to the treacherous counsels of his court, in order to contrive a new conspiracy against the people who had become free. . . .

. . . You would pass, Sire, for an enemy of the public liberty, for a treacherous conspirator, for the most cowardly of perjurers, for a prince without honor, without shame, for the lowest of men. May the fear of being covered with opprobrium in the eyes of all Europe close your heart to the counsels of the scoundrels who surround you; may it determine you to deliver them yourself to the sword of the law! Finally, fear to repel the truth that dares to draw near you. It is on this new proof that present generations and future races will judge you.

Two months later, Marat continues his argument for limited monarchy.

I do not know if the counterrevolutionaries will force us to change the form of government. What I do know is that in view of the depravity and baseness of the old regime's supporters, all of whom are so ready to abuse the powers entrusted to them, the government that best suits us today is one consisting of very limited monarchy. With such men as these, a federal republic would soon degenerate into oligarchy.

I have often been depicted as a mortal enemy of royalty, yet I maintain that the king has no better friend than me. His mortal enemies are his relatives, his ministers, the "blacks" and the "ministerials" in the National Assembly, the members of the "club monarchique," the factious priests and other supporters of despotism. It is by their machinations that he continually risks losing the people's confidence. Pushed by their advice, he puts his crown at risk, and it is I who fixes that crown firmly on his head by uncovering their plots, and by pressing him to deliver them to the sword and the scales of justice.


“Marat: The King Is a Friend of the People (29 December 1790 and 17 February 1791),” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed June 14, 2024,