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Couthon Georges August

Couthon Georges August  (17551794)

Georges August Couthon was a French revolutionary.

He was born at Orcet, Clermont, a village in the Auvergne. He studied law, and qualified at Clermont in 1785. Noted for his integrity, gentle-heartedness and charitable disposition, he had poor health and both legs were paralysed. In 1787 he became a member of the provincial assembly of Auvergne. On the outbreak of the Revolution, Couthon, now a member of the municipality of Clermont-Ferrand, published his L'Aristocrate converti, in which he revealed himself as a liberal and a champion of constitutional monarchy. Becoming very popular, he was appointed president of the tribunal of Clermont in 1791, and in September of the same year was elected deputy to the Legislative Assembly. His views had meanwhile been embittered by the attempted flight of Louis XVI, and he became hostile to the king. A visit to Flanders for the sake of his health brought him into close intercourse and sympathy with Charles Franois Dumouriez.

In September 1792 Couthon was elected to the National Convention, and at the trial of the king voted for the death sentence without appeal. He hesitated for a time as to which party he should join, but finally decided for that of Robespierre, with whom he shared many opinions, especially in matters of religion. He was the first to demand the arrest of the proscribed Girondists. On May 30, 1793 he became a member of the Committee of Public Safety, and in August was sent as one of the commissioners of the Convention attached to the army before Lyons. Impatient at the slow progress of the besieging force, he decreed a leve en masse in the dpartement of Puy-de-Dme, collected an army of 60,000 men, and himself led them to Lyons. When the city was taken, on October 9, 1793, although the Convention ordered its destruction, Couthon did not carry out the decree, and showed moderation in the punishment of the rebels. The Republican atrocities began after Couthon was replaced, on November 3, 1793, by Jean Marie Collot d'Herbois.

Couthon returned to Paris, and on December 21 was elected president of the Convention. He contributed to the prosecution of the Hbertists, and was responsible for the law of 22 Prairial, which in the case of trials before the Revolutionary Tribunal deprived the accused of the aid of counsel or of witnesses for their defence, on the pretext of shortening the proceedings. During the crisis preceding 9 Thermidor, Couthon showed considerable courage, giving up a journey to Auvergne in order, as he wrote, that be might either die or triumph with Robespierre and liberty. Arrested with Robespierre and Saint-Just, his colleagues in the triumvirate of the Reign of Terror, and subjected to indescribable sufferings and insults, he was taken to the scaffold on the same cart with Robespierre on July 28, 1794 (10th Thermidor).

Madagaskar, 1989, Convent


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