Herault De Sechelles, Marie Jean
HERAULT DE SECHELLES, MARIE JEAN (1759-1794), French politician, was born at Paris on the 20th of September 1759, of a noble family connected with those of Contades and Polignac. He made his debut as a lawyer at the Chatelet, and delivered some very successful speeches; later he was avocat general to the parlement of Paris. His legal occupations did not prevent him from devoting himself also to literature, and after 1 789 he published an account of a visit he had made to the comte de Buffon at Montbard. Herault's account is marked by a delicate irony, and it has with some justice been called a masterpiece of interviewing, before the day of journalists. Herault, who was an ardent champion of the Revolution, took part in the taking of the Bastille, and on the 8th of December 1789 was appointed judge of the court of the first arrondissement in the department of Paris. From the end of January to April 1791 Herault was absent on a mission in Alsace, where he had been sent to restore order. On his return he was appointed commissaire du roi in the court of cassation. He was elected as a deputy for Paris to the Legislative Assembly, where he gravitated more and more towards the extreme left; he was a member of several committees, and, when a member of the diplomatic committee, presented a famous report demanding that the nation should be declared to be in danger (nth June 1793). After the revolution of the loth of August 1792 (see FRENCH REVOLUTION), he co-operated with Danton, one of the organizers of this rising, and on the 2nd of September was appointed president of the Legislative Assembly. He was a deputy to the National Convention for the department of Seine-et-Oise, and was sent on a mission to organize the new department of Mont Blanc. He was thus absent during the trial of Louis XVI., but he made it known that he approved of the condemnation of the king, and would probably have voted for the death penalty. On his return to Paris, Herault was several times president of the Convention, notably on the 2nd of June 1793, the occasion of the attack on the Girondins, and on the loth of August 1793, on which the passing of the new constitution was celebrated. On this occasion Herault, as president of the Convention, had to make several speeches. It was he, moreover, who, on the rejection of the projected constitution drawn up by Condorcet, was entrusted with the task of preparing a fresh one; this work he performed within a few days, and his plan, which, however, differed very little from that of Condorcet, became the Constitution of 1793, which was passed, but never applied. As a member of the Committee of Public Safety, it was with diplomacy that Herault was chiefly concerned, and from October to December 1793 he was employed on a diplomatic and military mission in Alsace. But this mission helped to make him an object of suspicion to the other members of the Committee of Public Safety, and especially to Robespierre, who as a deist and a fanatical follower of the ideas of Rousseau, hated Herault, the follower of the naturalism of Diderot. He was accused of treason, and after being tried before the revolutionary tribunal, was condemned at the same time as Danton, and executed on the 16th Germinal in the year II. (jth April 1794). He was handsome, elegant and a lover of pleasure, and was one of the most individual figures of the Revolution.
See the Voyage & Montbard, published by A. Aulard (Paris, 1890); A. Aulard, Les Oraleurs de la Legislative el de la Convention, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1906); J. Claretie, Camille Desmoulins . . . etude sur les Dantonistes (Paris, 1875); Dr Robinet, Le Proems des Dantonistes (Paris, 1879); " H6rault de S6chelles, sa premiere mission en Alsace " in the review La Revolution francaise, tome 22; E. Daudet, Le Roman d'un conventionnel. Herault de Sechelles et les dames de Bellegarde (1904). His QLuvres litteraires were edited (Paris, 1907) by E. Dard. (R. A.*)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)