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Jean Lambert Tallien
He was the son of the maître d'hôtel of the marquis de Bercy , and was born in Paris. The marquis, noticing his ability, had him educated, and got him a place as a lawyer's clerk. Excited by the outbreak of the Revolution, he gave up his desk to enter a printer's office, and by 1791 was overseer of the printing department of the Monsieur. While thus employed he conceived the idea of the journal-affiche, and after the arrest of the king at Varennes in June 1791 he placarded a large printed sheet on all the walls of Paris twice a week, under the title of the Ami des Citoyens, journal fraternel.
This enterprise, whose expenses were paid by the Jacobin Club, made him well known to the revolutionary leaders; and he made himself still more conspicuous in organizing the great "Fête de la Liberté" on April 15 1792, in honour of the released soldiers of Chateau-Vieux , with Collot d'Herbois. On July 8, 1792, he was the spokesman of a deputation of the section of the Place Royale which demanded from the Legislative Assembly the reinstatement of the mayor, Jérôme Pétion, and the procureur, PL Manuel, and he was one of the most active popular leaders in the attack upon the Tuileries on August 10; on that day he was appointed secretary to the revolutionary commune of Paris.
In this capacity he worked feverishly; he perpetually appeared at the bar of the assembly on behalf of the commune; he announced the massacres of September in the prisons in terms of apology and praise; and he sent off the famous circular of September 3 to the provinces, recommending them to do likewise. He had several people imprisoned in order to save them from the fury of the mob, and protected several suspects himself. At the close of the month he resigned his post on being elected, in spite of his youth, a deputy to the Convention by the département of Seine-et-Oise, and he began his legislative career by defending the conduct of the Commune during the massacres. He took his seat upon the Mountain, and showed himself one of the most vigorous Jacobins, particularly in his defence of Marat, on February 26, 1793; he voted for the execution of the king, and was elected a member of the Committee of General Security on January 21, 1793. After a short mission in the western provinces he returned to Paris, and took an active part in the coups d'état of May 31 and June 2, which resulted in the overthrow of the Girondists. For the next few months he kept a low profile, but on September 23 1793, he was sent with Claude Alexandre Ysabeau on his mission to Bordeaux. This was the month in which the Reign of Terror was organized under the superintendence of the Committees of Public Safety and General Security.
Tallien showed himself one of the most vigorous of the proconsuls sent over France to establish the Terror in the provinces; he soon awed the great city into quiet. It was then that Tallien met Thérèse, the divorced wife of the comte de Fontenay , and daughter of the Spanish banker, François Cabarrus, one of the most fascinating women of her time. Tallien not only spared her life but fell in love with her. Suspected of "Moderatism" because of this incident, especially when he was recalled to Paris, Tallien attempted to increase his revolutionary zeal. Thérèse was a moderating influence, and from the lives she saved by her entreaties she received the name of "Our Lady of Thermidor," after the 9th of Thermidor (July 27, 1794). Tallien was even elected president of the Convention on March 24, 1794.
Robespierre had begun to see that he must strike at many of his own colleagues in the committees if he was to carry out his theories, and Tallien was one of the men condemned. They determined to strike first, and on the great day of Thermidor it was Tallien who, urged on by the danger to Thérèse, opened the attack on Robespierre. The movement was successful; Robespierre and his friends were guillotined; and Tallien, as the leading Thermidorian, was elected to the Committee of Public Safety. He was instrumental in suppressing the Revolutionary Tribunal and the Jacobin Club; he attacked Jean-Baptiste Carrier and Joseph Lebon , the representants en mission of Nantes and Arras; and he fought bravely against the insurgents of Prairial. In all these months he was supported by Thérèse, whom he married on December 26, 1794, and who became the leader of the social life of Paris.
His last political achievement was in July 1795, when he was present with Hoche at the destruction of the army of the Emigrés at Quiberon , and ordered the executions which followed. After the close of the Convention Tallien's political importance came to an end, for, though he sat in the Council of Five Hundred, the moderates attacked him as terrorist, and the extreme party as a renegade. Madame Tallien also tired of him, and became the mistress of the rich banker Ouvrard . Napoleon Bonaparte, however, who is said to have been introduced by him to Barras, took him to Egypt in his great expedition of June 1798, and after the capture of Cairo, he edited the official journal there, the Décade Égyptienne. General JF Menou sent him away from Egypt, and on his passage he was captured by an English cruiser and taken to London, where he had a good reception among the Whigs and was received by Charles James Fox.
On returning to France in 1802 he obtained a divorce from Therese (who in 1805 married the comte de Caraman , later prince de Chimay ), and was left for some time without employment. At last, through Joseph Fouché and Talleyrand, he was appointed consul at Alicante, and remained there until he lost the sight of one eye from yellow fever. On returning to Paris he lived on half-pay until 1815, when he received the favour of not being exiled like the other regicides. His latter days were spent in poverty; he had to sell his books to get bread.
Tallien left an interesting Discours sur les causes qui ont produit la Révolution française (Paris, 1791, in 8vo) and a Mémoire sur l'administration de l'Égypte a l'arrivée des Français. See Tallien et l'Expedition d'Égypte, in La Révolution Française: Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, p. 269. On Madame Tallien see Arsène Houssaye, Nôtre Dame de Thermidor (Paris, 1866).
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