A Year: Day to Day Men: 13th of July, Solar Year 2018


July 13, 1793 marks the murder of French political theorist, scientist, and radical journalist, Jean-Paul Marat.

The first of Jean-Paul Marat’s large-scale publications detailing his experiments was “Research into the Physics of Fire”. It described 166 experiments conducted to show that fire was not, as widely held, a material element but an “igneous fluid”. The Academy of Sciences appraised his work and endorsed Marat’s methods but did not agree with its conclusions. This marked the beginning of worsening relations between Marat and many of the Academy’s members.

Jean-Paul Marat’s second biggest work was “Discoveries on Light”, focusing on an error in Newton’s light theory. Marat showed through experiments that white light was broken down into colors by diffraction, and not by refraction as Newton proposed. Once again Marat asked the Academy of Sciences to review his work. From June 1779 to January of 1780, Marat performed experiments in the presence of the Academy’s commissioners showing his conclusions. Their repost was only three paragraphs stating that while there were a lot of experiments, the commission did not believe that Marat proved his theory. Goethe described Marat’s rejection by the Academy as a glaring example of scientific despotism.

On the eve of the French Revolution , Jean=Paul Marat left his career as a doctor and scientist and took up his pen on behalf of the Third Estate, devoting himself entirely to politics. On September 12, 1789, Marat began his own newspaper, “The People’s Friend”, attacking influential groups in Paris, the Constituent Assembly, and Louis XVI’s Finance Minister, Jacques Necker. Between 1790 and 1792, Marat was often forced into hiding, sometimes in the Paris sewers. He only emerged publicly on the August 10 Insurrection, when the Palace was invaded and the royal family was forced to shelter in the Legislative Assembly.

Forced to retire from the French Convention as a result of a worsening skin disease, Marat continued to work at home, where he soaked in a medicinal bath. Marat was in his bathtub on July 13, 1793, when a young woman, named Charlotte Corday, appeared at his flat claiming to have vital information for Marat. Their interview lasted about fifteen minutes, with him writing details on an improvised desk of a board across the tub. After he finished his writing, Corday rose from her chair, drawing out a five inch knife, driving it hard into Marat.s chest. It opened the carotid artery, close to his heart; the massive bleeding was fatal within seconds. Charlotte Corday was guillotined on July 17, 1793 for the murder.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 7th of June, Solar Year 2018

The Toss of a Shirt

The Day of the Tiles occurs on June 7, 1788 in the town of Grenoble, France.

Grenoble was the scene of popular unrest due to financial hardship from the economic crises. The causes of the French Revolution affected all of France, but matters came to a head first in Grenoble. Cardinal Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne attempted to abolish the provincial appellate courts in order to enact a new tax upon the people. Tensions caused by poor harvests and high costs of food increased when the privileged classes insisted on retaining the right to collect feudal royalties from their peasants and landholders.

A meeting was held prior to the 7th of June in 1788 calling together at Grenoble the judges of the old Estates to discuss reforms. The government responded by sending troops to the area to put down the movement. In the morning of June 7th, merchants closed their shops; groups of 300-400 men and women formed, armed with stones, sticks and axes. They rushed the city gates to prevent the judges at the Grenoble meeting from leaving the city. The cathedral was seized and the bells rung, calling neighboring peasants into the city.

The Regiment of the Royal Navy was the first to respond to the growing crowds, and was given the order to quell the rioting without the use of arms. However, as the mob stormed the hotel entrance, the situation escalated. Soldiers sent to quell the disturbances forced the townspeople off the streets. During an attack, Royal Navy soldiers injured a 75 year old man with a bayonet.

At the sight of blood, the people became angry and started to tear up the streets. Townspeople climbed onto the roofs of buildings around the Jesuit College to hurl down a rain of roof tiles on the soldiers in the streets below, hence the “Day of the Tiles”. Many soldiers took refuge in a building to shoot through the windows, while the crowd continued to rush inside and ravage everything.

A noncommissioned officer of the Royal Navy, commanding a patrol of four soldiers, gave the order to open fire into the mob. One civilian was killed and a boy of 12 wounded. To the east of the city, the Royal Navy soldiers were forced to open fire in order to protect the city’s arsenal, fearing that the rioters would seize the weapons and ammunition.

Meanwhile, Colonel Count Chabord began deploying his regiment of Australasia troops to aid and relieve the Royal Navy soldiers. At six o’clock in the evening, a shouting crowd estimated at ten thousand people forced the judges to return to the Palace of the Parliament of Dauphine.  It wasn’t until the 14th of July that order was fully restored.

The Day of the Tiles was one of the first disturbances which preceded the French Revolution. Some historians have used that day to demonstrate the worsening situation in France in the buildup to the Revolution of 1789. Others have credited it with being the beginning of the revolution itself. Six outbreaks of rioting occurred in the city that day, leading to the Assembly of Vizille, which passed resolutions demanding reforms be made by the king.