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Louis-Michel le Peletier, marquis de Saint-Fargeau (sometimes spelled Lepeletier or Lepelletier; 29 May 1760 – 20 January 1793) was a French politician.

Born in Paris, he belonged to a well-known family, his great-grandfather, Michel Robert Le Peletier des Forts, count of Saint-Fargeau, having been Controller-General of Finances. After the death of his title holding family, Lepeletier gained a vast amount of wealth.

He entered into politics by becoming an avocat (French term for Lawyer) to the Place du Chatelet, a prison. In 1785 Lepeletier was advanced to avocat-general. In 1789 he was elected to the Parlement of Paris, and in that same year he became a deputy of the noblesse to the States-General.

At this time, he shared the conservative views of the majority of his class; but by slow degrees his ideas changed and became very advanced. On 13 July 1789 he demanded the recall of Necker, whose dismissal by the king had aroused great excitement in Paris; and in the Constituent Assembly he had moved the abolition of the death penalty, of the galleys and of branding, and the substitution of beheading for hanging. This attitude won him great popularity, and on 21 June 1790 he was made president of the Constituent Assembly. He remained in this position until 5 July 1790.

During the existence of the Legislative Assembly, he was elected President of the General Council for the Yonne département in 1791. He was then elected by this département to become a deputy to the Convention. Here he was in favor of the trial of Louis XVI by the assembly and was a deciding vote for the death of the king.

While in the Convention Lepeletier focused mainly on revolutionary reform for education, his idea was a Spartan education. All the people, male and female, would be taught in state run schools. They would be taught revolutionary ideas instead of the normal; history, science, mathematics, language and religion. His educational plan was supported by Robespierre and his ideas were borrowed in later schemes (notably by Jules Ferry).

Death and memory

JPG of Louis Michel Le Peletier, Marquis de Saint-Fargeau,: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/image:Louis-Michel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau p1400538.jpg In mid January 1793 the Convention was faced with the decision of what to do with the king. A close vote of 361 to 360 deputies and the king was condemned to death by guillotine. Lepeletier is rumored to be the deciding factor of this vote. Supposedly Lepeletier was originally for the survival of the king, but Duc d’Orleans the king’s own cousin persuaded him to vote otherwise. This rumor won him the hatred of the Royalists and on 20 January 1793, the eve of the execution of the king, he was assassinated in one of the Palais Royal’s restaurants. His murderer, Philippe Nicolas Marie de Pâris, a member of the Grade du Corps, allegedly plunged a saber that he had hidden under his cloak into the chest of Lepeletier. Edmond Bire wrote the following conversation in his paper, Journal d’un Bourgeois. “Paris approached Lepeletier, ‘You voted for the death of the king?’ ‘Yes, Monsieur, I voted according to my conscience. What matters you?’ But Paris drawing out his saber from beneath his cloak cried, “Wretch, then you shall vote no more!’ and he plunged his weapon into the body of Lepeletier. So little did the citizens who filled the dinning-room area resent the crime that not a murmur arose, and Paris was allowed to leave the restaurant unmolested.” His assassin fled to Normandy, where, on the point of being discovered, he supposedly shot himself in the head. Other sources states that this was a set up, the real murderer having fled to England where he died years later. The true reasons of the death of Le Peletier may remain a mystery (related to a plot involving Spain), but the repercutions of his death at the hands of the revolutionaries was minimal. He was quickly presented to the People of France as the FIRST martyr of the French Revolution, and stood as a symbol of liberty and commitment to the Revolution. Also in 1793 the martyr deaths of Marat,Chalier,and Robespierre in 1794.

The Convention honored Louis Michel Le Peletier 9 who wanted to be known as Louis Le Peletier, to distinguish himself from his father, Michel Robert Le Lepetier, with a magnificent funeral, with his body being displayed at Place Vendôme directly under the statue of King Louis XIV. The painter Jacques-Louis David represented his death in a famous painting Lepeletier sur son let demert, which ironically destroyed by his daughter. David described his painting of Lepeletier’s face as being “Serene, that is because when one dies for one’s country, one has nothing with which to reproach oneself.” This statement gave the National Convention a sense of confidence that they had done right in executing the king. Though missing, this painting (today known by a drawing made by a pupil of David) incarnates an extremely important and symbolic moment in French art history, because it is considered by scholars as the first completed official painting of the French Revolution, a rehearsal in a way of what The Death of Marat (also by David) would later achieve. The missing painting has recently been interpretated as a revolutionary Saint Sebastian inspired by a roman model, showing the difficulty of erasing traditions in the process of producing new icons for the masses, achieving as well a complex regeneration of the self not only valid for Lepeletier, but for David himself, and making by this means a dream of so many revolutionairs come true : being more Roman than the antique Romans of the Republic, which was an idea Lepeletier pursued through his actions as a man of law.

Link to painting: http://repeinture.com

Le Peletier was buried in the Panthéon in Paris in 1793. Other heroes of the French Revolution that were buried there were: Marat, Chalier, Robespierre, Rousseau, Voltaire, Mirabeau, Beaurepaire, His body was removed by his family on 14 February 1795.

The station Saint-Fargeau of the Paris Métro is named after him. He was elected to the Parliament of Paris, and a Deputy to the State General. In 1790 he was President of the Constituent Assembly. In 1791 he was President of the General Counsel for the Yonne department, then a Deputy to the Convention. A beautiful Sèvres bust of Louis Michel Le Peletier is on display in the Chateau De Vizelle, Isere.(Image is on the French version of Wikipedia on Michel Louis Le Peletier. ( p1400338.jpg )

Louis Michel Le Peletier who was France's last "Prevot des Marchands" (Provost of Merchants) between 1784-1789. Nine years later, posthumously, on 30 Sept 1793 the French ship "Seduisant" one of two newly commissioned Ships of the line" of the French Navy, with 74 guns, over 56 meters in length and 1550 tons in weight, was renamed Peletier, in honor and memory of Louis Michel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, who had been assassinated 20 Jan 1793, on the eve of the execution of King Louis XVI. For reasons unknown, but obviously due to his powerful enemies that succeeded in his assination, on 30 May 1795, the ship reverted back to her original name "Seduisant". 6 months later, on 16 December 1795,an unknown accident caused the Seduisant to sink, claiming 1150 crew and soldier lives, while they were leaving Brest for the Expedition D'lrlande.

Louis Michel Lepeleter, Marquis de Saint Fargeau, who had renounced his title, was an important political figure during the same French Revolutionary period as General Lafayette, who had renounced his Marquis title in 1790. The last projects Le Peletier, worked on in 1793, was his attempt to abolish the death penalty, in an attempt to diffuse the volatility of violence, and then with the assistance of Maximillian Robespiere, the passing of his Education Project, by the Commission of Six, where Primary Education was to be made available and to be paid out of public funding, largely from the rich. However 6 months after his death it was abolished.

J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles) has a beautiful painting of Suzanne Le Peletier, his daughter, by Jacques-Louis David, when she was 22yrs old. Suzanne became a national celebrity at the tender age age of eleven, after the assassination of her father, the first French revolutionary war hero, Louis Michel Le Peletier, the Marquis de Saint Fargeau. Suzanne was officially adopted by the French Nation and given the title "Daughter of the State."

Link to her painting by Jacques-Louis David,at the J.P.Getty museum. http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artobjectdetails?artobj=112575

Family

Le Peletier had a brother, Felix (1769-1837), well known for his advanced ideas. Another brother was Amédée Louis Michel Lepeletier de Saint Fargeau (1770-1845), entomologist. His daughter, Suzanne Louise, was the first "adopted child" of the French nation. She is the ancestor of the writer and academician Jean d'Ormesson.

References

  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • DÉY, M., Histoire de la Ville et du Comté de Saint-Fargeau, Auxerre, 1856
  • LE BLANT, Edmond, Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau et son meurtrier, Paris, Douniol, 1874
  • STEPHENS, Henry Moore, The Principle Speeches of the Statesmen and Orators of the French Revolution 1789-1795, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1892
  • HERISSAY, Jacques, L'assassinat de Le Pelletier de Saint-Fargeau, Paris, Ed. Emile-Paul Frères, 1934
  • BATICLE, Jeannine, La seconde mort de Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau. Recherches sur le sort du tableau de David in Bulletin de la Société Française d’Histoire de l’Art, 1988, Paris, 1989, pp. 131-145
  • JESCHONNEK, Bernd, Revolution in Frankreich 1789 bis 1799 - Ein Lexikon, Berlin, Akademie-Verlag, 1989
  • SIMON, Robert, David’s Martyr-Portrait of Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau and the conundrums of Revolutionary Representation in Art History, vol.14, n°4, December 1991, pp.459-487
  • LEWIS, Gwynne, The French Revolution Rethinking Debate, N.P. Routledge, 1993
  • MARTUCCI, Roberto, En attendant Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau in Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 2002, n°2, pp.77-104
  • HAZELTINE, Mayo Williamson, French Revolution: A Study of Democracy, London, Kessinger Publishing, 2003
  • VANDEN BERGHE Marc & PLESCA, Ioana, Lepelletier de Saint-Fargeau sur son lit de mort par Jacques-Louis David : saint Sébastien révolutionnaire, miroir multiréférencé de Rome, Brussels, 2005 - online on www.art-chitecture.net/publications.php [1]
  • ANDRESS, David, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France, New York, Straus and Giroux, 2005
  • www.repeinture.com (dedicated to the repainting & study of the missing picture by David, project in process) [2]
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