1793 was an important year during the French Revolution, king Louis XVI was executed for his perjury, amongst other crimes. A month later, France declared war on Great Britain, causing food riots in Paris. There were also various “Federalist” revolts that erupted in many important provincial centres against Paris domination.
The source is a public document, due to the fact that it was published in a newspaper, “Le Père Duchesne”. “Père Duchesne” was a name given to certain pamphleteers, who became the voice of the “sans-culottes”, pro-revolutionary town folk that didn’t wear breeches, but wore workmen’s trousers as a political gesture amongst the working class civilians.
“Le Père Duchesne” was written and published by Jacques-René Hébert, a French journalist and revolutionary, he gained the support of the working classes through his newspaper and was prominent in the Cordeliers. Hébert was obviously interested in gaining political power through the general public with his pro-revolutionary views, however, eventually he was sentenced to death by the tribunal on the charge of formenting insurrection.
Jacques-René Hébert provides useful information in the extract taken from “Le Père Duchesne”, on the “sans-culottes”. He gives fairly detailed descriptions on who the “sans-culottes” really were:
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“The sans-culotte is useful because he knows how to plough a field, to forge iron, use a saw, to file, to roof a house, to make shoes-and to spill his blood to the last drop for the safety of the Republic”
In the first paragraph of the extract, “the cream of sans-culotterie”, is used to describe the finest of the working class “sans-culottes”. This phrase is immediatly followed by, “the garrets of the working-men”, in this case the word “garrets”, means the attics or rooms in a roof. At the bottom of the first paragraph the author, mentions “l’Ami des Lois”, this was a French theatrical comedy at the time, followed by “Chaste Suzanne”, which was a popular operetta.
“The citizenesses in the gallery”, is used in the second paragraph to describe the women that the upper-class men would seek to win approval of. In the final paragraph, “the sans-culotte always has his sword with the edge sharpened, ready to cut off the ears of all opponents of the Revolution”, is symbolic for uprising and anger of the pro-revolutionary “sans-culottes”.
In the extract, the testimony that the author, Jacques-René Hébert, wishes to convey is that, although the “sans-culottes”, are lower, working-class citizens, they are still important and essential to the French Republic. He mentions that while the upper-class citizens attend theater and opera, the “sans-cullotes” play a major role in the construction of the Republic by working as farmers, blacksmiths and various other trades. He then adds that will fight without any hesitation for the “safety of the Republic”. In some sense, the author tries to convey, that the “sans culottes” are the true citizens of the Republic. He also points out that they have strong political views:
“Ready to give his unreserved support to sound resolutions, and ready to pulverise those which come from the despised faction of politicians.”
However, there are also various parts in the extract that Jacques-René Hébert was perhaps not conscious of, or partially unaware of. From reading the text, it seems quite obvious that he is trying to win over the “sans-culottes” by writing what they would like to hear. The author also writes about the lower labouring class as if he too were part of that society, when it is quite clear that Hébert was a journalist and member of the Cordeliers club. He also states in the secon line of the extract:
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“who has not got the millions you would all like to have;”
As if he too would be interested in making a fortune. In addition, he seems to posess knowledge of gaming rooms, theater and the opera.
In the last line of the extract he claims that the “sans-culottes”, “will be seen leaving for the vendée”, as if he will be there watching the lower-class head off to war. There seems to be no indication of Hébert getting involved in anyway.
The extract, which is obviously a transalation, mentions “garrets”, in the first paragraph. the word could suggest two different meanings. In medievel France this word was used to describe a watchtower. In this sense it could be symbolic for the “sans culottes” observing the government.