Barnave, Antoine Pierre Joseph Marie
assembly king mirabeau
BARNAVE, ANTOINE PIERRE JOSEPH MARIE, one of the greatest orators and noblest actors and victims of the first French Revolution, was born at Grenoble in Dauphiny, October 22, 1761. He was of a Protestant family. his father was an advocate to the parliament of Grenoble, and his mother was a woman of high birth, superior ability, and noble character. He was at once thoughtful and passionate, studious and social, handsome in person and graceful in manners. He was brought up to the law, and at the age of twenty-two made himself favourably known by a discourse pronounced before the local parliament on the division of political powers. Dauphiny was one of the first of the provinces to feel the excitement of the coming revolution; and Barnave was foremost to give voice to the general feeling, in a pamphlet entitled Esprit des edits enregistrs militairement le 20 Mai 1788. He was immediately elected deputy, with his father, to the States of Dauphiny, and took a prominent part in their debates. A few months later he was transferred to a grander field of action. The States-general were convoked at Versailles for May, 5, 1789, and Barnave was chosen deputy of the Tiers Etat for his native province. He soon made an impression on the Assembly, and became the friend of most of the leaders of the popular party. He took part in the conferences on the claims of the three orders, drew up the first address to the king, and supported the proposal of Sieyes that the Assembly should declare itself National. Though a passionate lover of liberty, he knew that excess is the ruin of liberty, and maintained the necessity for the individual and for the community of both freedom and restraint. lie hoped to secure the freedom of France and her monarchy at the same time, But he was almost unawares borne away by the mighty currents of the time, and he took part in the attacks on the monarchy, on the clergy, on church property, and on the provincial parliaments. With the one exception of the mighty Mirabeau, Barnave was the most powerful orator of the Assembly. On several occasions he stood in opposition to Mirabeau. After the fall of the Bastille he wished to save the throne. He advocated the suspensive veto, the system of two chambers, and the establishment of trial by jury in civil causes. His conflict with Mirabeau on the question of assigning to the king the right to make peace or war was one of the most striking scenes in the Assembly. About this time, after a vehement debate, he fought a duel with Cazales, in which the latter was slightly wounded. About the close of October 1790 Barnave was called to the presidency of the Assembly. On the death of Mirabeau a few months later, Barnave paid a high tribute to his worth and public services, designating him the Shakespeare of oratory. On the arrest of the king and the royal family at Varenues, while attempting to escape from France, Barnave was one of the three appointed to conduct them back to Paris. On the journey he was deeply affected by the mournful fate of these royal persons, and resolved to do what he could to alleviate their sufferings. In one of his most powerful speeches he maintained the inviolability of the king's person. His public career came to an end with the close of the Constituent Assembly, and he returned to Grenoble at the beginning of 1792. His sympathy and relations with the royal family, and his desire to check the downward progress of the Revolution, brought on him the suspicion and persecution of the more violent party. At the end of August 1792 he was arrested and imprisoned, and in November 1793 was transferred to Paris. The nobility of his character was proof against the assaults of suffering. " Better to suffer and to die," he said, " than lose one shade of my moral and political character." On November 28 he appeared before the Revolutionary Tribunal, in company with Duport-Dutertre, and two days later they both perished by the guillotine.