A pamphlet against the aristocracy

A pamphlet against the aristocracy

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  • Rascals fear streetlights.

  • The Strennas to the truth or Almanac des Aristocrates.

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Title: Rascals fear streetlights.

Author :

Creation date : 1789

Date shown: 1789

Dimensions: Height 14.1 - Width 9.9

Technique and other indications: Etching.Engraving published in: Strennes to the Truth or Almanac des Aristocrates.

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: Bibl. hist. PEY 582

Rascals fear streetlights.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: The Strennas to the truth or Almanac des Aristocrates.

Author :

Creation date : 1789

Date shown: 1789

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Title page of Strennes to the Truth or Almanac des Aristocrats, anonymous pamphlet. in-8, 80 p.

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: Bibl. PEY 582

The Strennas to the truth or Almanac des Aristocrates.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: May 2005


A pamphlet against the aristocracy


Historical context

The haunt of the aristocratic plot

In 1789, a general dissatisfaction with the seigneurial reaction was added to the lively turmoil unleashed in the towns and the countryside by the acute fear of famine, unemployment, and rising prices. The excitement soon turned throughout the kingdom into widespread unrest and rioting marked by recurring acts of savagery.

The new freedom of the press, which no law yet limits, favors newspapers and pamphlets. Quickly written and quickly read, this mobile and nervous literature, a complete break with the reading styles of the time, strongly influences people's minds.

The fear of the plot against the Revolution is particularly evident here. The fantasy of an abstract, omnipresent and hidden anti-power immediately takes on the face of an enemy: the aristocrat, chosen for public vengeance. The privileged, considered as not being able to be fully citizens, are then the subject of denunciations to the Research Committee of the Constituent Assembly.

The conception of the nation in 1789, an association of individuals who have freely decided to live under a common law protecting their rights, finds its identity in the passion for equality and the visceral rejection of privileges and the privileged.

Image Analysis

The Strennes to the Truth, or Almanac des Aristocrats

The monstrous hydra spread, after the suppression of privileges (August 4, 1789), as the fantastic and allegorical caricature of the aristocracy. The mythical memory of abominable beasts, like that of Gévaudan, is remembered by all, but the allusion to the French political situation remains transparent. Three of the four animal heads are capped, from right to left, with a plumed helmet (the nobility), a bishop's miter (the secular clergy), an abbot's cap (the regular clergy) ) and the fourth is a turkey's head holding in its beak the brooch on which it will be put (the nobility of the magistrates' robe). So this four-headed monster is unmasked as one evil: the aristocracy. Turning away from the sun of Liberty, the four heads wave under a lamppost on which we read "Avenger of the Fatherland". The collusion of interests of all the privileged, symbolized by the political monstrosity of the "body" of the nobility linked to the clergy, is pointed out to the hatred of the patriots. The lantern, symbol of light, opposes the dark evil spells of the aristocracy. Its function of expeditious punishment is glorified as reassuring: to overcome the hydra, it will be necessary to cut down all heads in order to prevent them from being reborn.

This extravagant drawing appears in an anonymous pamphlet, Strennes to the Truth, or Almanac des aristocrates pour la nouvelle année, second of Liberty, 1790, which violently challenges society. This caricature is the colorful translation of the text's violent verbal attacks. The Rouen court seized this pamphlet but could not identify the author. As always, there are many references to this kind of writing to earlier pamphlets or recent caricatures.

The caption of the image uses the provocative and irreverent epigraph of Lantern speech to Parisians by Camille Desmoulins
, "The rascals do not want a lantern", which turns verse 3, 20 of the Gospel according to Saint John: "He who does evil hates the light. "One can doubt the signature of the engraving: Antoine-Jean Duclos (1742-1795), author of official scenes, is not known as a caricaturist.

The content of the pamphlet repeats the presentation of the The Almanac of Honest People by Sylvain Maréchal, sentenced on January 7, 1788 to be burned, which began the year with a "princeps" month, located in March. The Strenna announce the next eclipses of all feudal and public rights, and give the list of aristocrats to be suppressed, month by month, denouncing them all indiscriminately, especially if they are magistrates or deputies to the National Assembly. The latter then tries to contain popular excesses, an action which raises fears of a maneuver by the aristocracy.

The first text, "What is the aristocracy", sets the tone for a satire as extravagant as the image. Everything that follows is the bearer of a prediction - the destruction of the aristocracy - and a desire to excite spirits, from very free details, against the king, the queen, the nobility, the magistracy, finance and the clergy.

The designation of the editor, of the highest fancy, is one more allusion to the Lantern speech to Parisians of Camille Desmoulins and to emigration, for which Spa (Belgium) was then a center of attraction.

Despite the unlimited freedom enjoyed by the press at the start of the Revolution, this writing was condemned by a decree of January 2, 1790 from the Court of the Parliament of Rouen to be slashed and burned by the executor of the High Justice, in the court of Palace, at the foot of the grand staircase.


At the origin of the idea of ​​nation

This pamphlet reflects the effervescence of ideas from the winter of 1789-1790. Extravagant, daring and funny, it circulates under the cloak. It helps to spread the psychosis of aristocratic conspiracy among the public and to arouse the fear, mobilization and punitive will of the patriots. Each pamphlet makes an impression because it is both a hype and a prediction.

The fantasy of an aristocratic plot helps to unite popular minds. The Revolution established a border between the people and the privileged: it found its scapegoats. The nation is defined by what it rejects; the rumors about the conspiracies which threaten it arouse a large mobilization. The National Guards who organized themselves spontaneously throughout France during the summer of 1789 gave concrete expression to the start against the obsession with conspiracy. The fantasy of a threat to recently acquired rights gave rise to the idea of ​​nation, by excluding the nobles rejected from the social body.

  • Constituent Assembly
  • caricature
  • censorship
  • Clergy


Antoine de BAECQUE, The Counter-Revolutionary Caricature, Paris, CNRS, 1988. Jean-Paul BERTAUD, The Press and the power from Louis XIII to Napoleon I, Paris, Perrin, 2000 François FURET, The Revolution, 1770-1880, Paris, Hachette, 1988. John GRAND-CARTERET, The French Almanacs. Bibliography, iconography. 1600-1895, Paris, J. Alisié and Cie, 1896. Patrice GUENIFFEY, The Politics of Terror. Essay on revolutionary violence, 1789-1939, Paris, Fayard, 2000.Strennes to the truth or Almanac of the aristocrats for the present year, second of freedom. Electronic document available on the Gallica site of the National Library of France at the following address: http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/Visualiseur?Destination=Gallica&O=NUMM-57137

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "A pamphlet against the aristocracy"

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  1. Oro

    By what a remarkable topic

  2. Everton

    It is compliant, it is the admirable phrase

  3. Mano

    Senks, very useful information.

  4. Randy

    Incredible. I'm just in shock. All ingenious is simple

  5. Zulumi

    Yeah it sounds in a seductive way

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