First Advisor

Gordon Dodds

Term of Graduation

Winter 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Babeuf, Gracchus (1760-1797), Communism -- France -- History -- 18th century, France -- History -- Revolution (1789-1799)



Physical Description

1 online resource, (184 pages)


The traditional history of Franc̦ois-Noel 'Gracchus' Babeuf has been centered on politics and socialism. Since his death in 1 797 historians have attempted to show the foundations of nineteenth and twentieth-century social revolution and communism in the polemical works of Babeuf. One result of this method of research has been an assumption of contradiction within Babeuf's writings in the months immediately following the fall of Maxmilien Robespierre. Historians have assumed that the seemingly anti-Robespierrist rhetoric found from September 1794 to February 1795 was both a product and an evidence of the 'Thermidorization' of Babeuf. However, a close textual analysis of several of Babeuf's tracts proves that Babeuf was both a committed Jacobin and Robespierrist throughout the Thermidorian reaction. What enabled Babeuf the Jacobin to appear 'Thermidorian' was his unique usage of language. By infusing the traditional language of denunciation with a complex and dualistic representation of both Robespierre and the Jacobins, Babeuf simultaneously and paradoxically praised their historic virtue of 1789 and condemned their political corruption in 1794. Through and examination of three of Gracchus Babeuf's pamphlets, Les battus payant amende, On veut sauver Carrier, and Voyage des jacobins, a clearer and more precise image of Babeuf the journalist arises. These works evidence two distinctive linguistic discourses: a rhetoric of religion and a language of opposition. Through his systematic usage of images and symbols Babeuf exhibits a unique philosophical and religious continuity between Jansenist and parlementary opposition to absolutism and republican criticism of the monarchy. From this religious origins grows Babeuf's journalistic position as voice of Thermidorian opposition and criticism. The symbolic language of Babeuf evidences the steady evolution of journalistic opposition that originated with the libellistes of the Ancien Regime, grew in popularity under Hebert and Armand Guffroy, and ultimately rallied the disparate remnants of the Mountain to the pages of Babeuf and le Tribun du Peuple.


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