Garat, Dominique Joseph
GARAT, DOMINIQUE JOSEPH (1740-1833), French writer and politician, was born at Bayonne on the 8th of September 1749. After receiving a good education under the direction of a relation who was a curé, and having been an advocate at Bordeaux, he came to Paris, where he obtained introductions to the most distinguished writers of the time, and became a contributor to the Encyclopédie méthodique and the Mercure de France. He gained considerable reputation by an éloge on Michel de L'Hôpital in 1778, and was afterwards three times crowned by the Academy for éloges on Suger, Montausier and Fontenelle. In 1785 he was named professor of history at the Lycée, where his lectures enjoyed an equal popularity with those of G.F. Laharpe on literature. Being chosen a deputy to the states-general in 1789, he rendered important service to the popular cause by his narrative of the proceedings of the Assembly contributed to the Journal de Paris. Possessing strongly optimist views, a mild and irresolute character, and indefinite and changeable convictions, he played a somewhat undignified part in the great political events of the time, and became a pliant tool in carrying out the designs of others. Danton had him named minister of justice in 1792, and in this capacity had entrusted to him what he called the commission affreuse of communicating to Louis XVI. his sentence of death. In 1793 he became minister of the interior. In this capacity he proved himself quite inefficient. Though himself uncorrupt, he winked at the most scandalous corruption in his subordinates, and in spite of the admirably organized detective service, which kept him accurately informed of every movement in the capital, he entirely failed to maintain order, which might easily have been done by a moderate display of firmness. At last, disgusted with the excesses which he had been unable to control, he resigned (August 15, 1793). On the 2nd of October he was arrested for Girondist sympathies but soon released, and he escaped further molestation owing to the friendship of Barras and, more especially, of Robespierre, whose literary amour-propre he had been careful to flatter. On the 9th Thermidor, however, he took sides against Robespierre, and on the 12th of September 1794 he was named by the Convention as a member of the executive committee of public instruction. In 1798 he was appointed ambassador to Naples, and in the following year he became a member, then president, of the Council of the Ancients. Alter the revolution of the 18th Brumaire he was chosen a senator by Napoleon and created a count. During the Hundred Days he was a member of the chamber of representatives. In 1803 he was chosen a member of the Institute of France, but after the restoration of Louis XVIII. his name was, in 1816, deleted from the list of members. After the revolution of 1830 he was named a member of the new Academy of Moral and Political Science. He died at Ustaritz near Bayonne, April 25, 1833. His writings are characterized by elegance, grace and variety of style, and by the highest kind of rhetorical eloquence; but his grasp of his subject is superficial, and as his criticisms have no root in fixed and philosophical principles they are not unfrequently whimsical and inconsistent. He must not be confounded with his elder brother Dominique (1735-1799), who was also a deputy to the states-general.
The works of Garat include, besides those already mentioned, Considérations sur la Révolution Française (Paris, 1792); Mémoires sur la Révolution, ou exposé de ma conduite (1795); Mémoires sur la vie de M. Suard, sur ses écrits, et sur le XVIIIe siècle (1820); éloges on Joubert, Kléber and Desaix; several notices of distinguished persons; and a large number of articles in periodicals. Valuable materials for the history of Garat's tenure of the ministry, notably the police reports of Dutard, are given in W.A. Schmidt's Tableaux de la Révolution Française (3 vols., Leipzig, 1867-1870).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)