Print 

"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains" - says Rousseau. And along with Voltaire, Montesquieu and the encyclopaedists he sets the powerful movement in the minds and hearts of the French, known as the Great French Revolution.

A whole decade of the history of France takes place under the slogan "Live free or die". The word "freedom" seems to be the most heard among the oratory stands, the most written one in the newspapers and brochures: from Momoro’s motto- "Liberty, equality, fraternity", to the exclamation of Manon Roland - "Oh liberty! How many crimes are done in your name!" - everyone interprets the concept in a different way, for everyone it brings different value. National freedom, social freedom, freedom of interests, beliefs, resistance to oppression, freedom of expression, freedom in art - in one word: freedom in everything. It is the first human right, to be announced 227 years ago in the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen" defined as follows: "Freedom is consisted of the right to do anything that does not harm the others". Prominent deputies, politicians, journalists, laundresses, porters, beggars, students, bakers, labourers, street singers fought for it.

The Fight for Freedom and the Press

Originating in the XVII century, occupying still an unimportant place in life, the press is controlled by the monarchical state. All newspapers are under the supervision of the royal censors, each risking getting banned and their editors - fired. The price of the publications is high. One newspaper of 4 pages is worth of 30 livres annual subscription in Paris and 33 in the province (Le Journal de Paris). On the front page there is usually astronomical or meteorological information and one scientific or literal article and on the others - news from the city: job ads, changes in the administrative staff, spectacles, exchanges, results from lottery annuities and more. What newspapers existed before the revolution? Two weekly newspapers from the royal court: La Gazette de France and Le Mercure de France; one daily newspaper - Le Journal General de la France; weekly and monthly publications in the fields of science, religion, fashion, agriculture and several entirely hand-written journals of the province which are called "posters" or "ads".

Since the second half of 1788, however, an avalanche of lampoon unleashes, the most famous of which is "What is the Third Estate?" by Abbot Sieyès. For the first time someone dares to answer the question: ”What the third estate is? with "Everything". He gives one of the many interpretations of freedom during the revolution. "So what the third estate is: The whole nation, but mainly in chains and under oppression. What would it be without the privileged: The whole nation, but a nation free and flourishing."

The First Political Newspapers Appear

Volney’s La Sentinelle du Peuple, Brissot’s Le Patriote Francais, Mirabeau’s Les Etats Generaux treated the same subject. Their appearance is accompanied by the increased tension between the opposing forces: aristocrats and the clergy, the bourgeoisie and the people. This contradiction gives birth to the revolution. A handful of privileged people of the king against 26 million French people with different convictions, political beliefs, interests. They are united in one thing - the main - the fight for the Republic. With the development of the revolution the differences between them will deepen, disputes will begin of what should the Republic be, but the early enthusiasm and exaltation in the fight against the absolute monarchy of Louis XVI are crucial. Because all had agreed that the "royal power, especially the inherited one, is incompatible with freedom" (Petition of the Cordeliers Club from June 21, 1791).

The French Revolution bursts out. From now on the development of the press is the history of the revolution, the history of the idea for ​​freedom, the equality and brotherhood. Any political change in the decade is accompanied by the disappearance of the press of the defeated faction. Each party sees the face of the "patriots" in its supporters, as the ones fighting for freedom and with their coming to power they will break the premises, the bureaus, the printing presses of their uncomfortable enemy parties.  And this is despite the announced total freedom of the press in paragraph 10 and 11 of the Declaration of the Human rights in 1789.

July 14 - the Symbol of Absolutism Collapses – the Bastille

The mason Paul Loire and a handful of people get engaged in its destruction. In its place trees are planted, each of which represents one of the 83 departments of France according to its new administrative division; a tricolour flag is waving, in the middle of which there is the Phrygian cap and the word "freedom".

The people rebelled, but the power in the cities goes into the hands of the bourgeoisie. The Constitution of 1791 declares France a constitutional monarchy. The leaders of the constitutionalists - Count Mirabeau and Abbé Sieyès in their speeches and articles unite for a compromise with the king and for limited reforms. In this period - from 1789 to 1792, about 500 titles are published. But after a clash of the Campus Martius the constitutionalists close the Club of the Cordeliers - a political centre of the common people in which prominent role played the revolutionary Danton and the brilliant journalist Camille Desmoulins.

The bread is the care of the supreme power. The power does not provide it to the people. Foreign enemies of the revolution threaten the country's borders. The calls: "Citizens, the Fatherland is in danger!" and "Song of the Rhine Army", are enough to vent the people’s anger. On the 22nd of September, 1792 the Republic is proclaimed. Danton has already alarmed for protection against the contra-revolutionists: "Gentlemen, to beat them, we need bravery, bravery, and always bravery - and France will be saved".

The Establishment of the Republic Forces the Royal Editions to Silence

The people’s anger against the traitors of the homeland is so strong that the angry mob kills one of the most prominent journalist royalists - Suleau. Another one - Parisau is convicted by the revolutionary tribunal and is executed. And the pages of the newspapers heat up the fight between the Girondists (representatives of the merchant-industrial bourgeoisie) and the Jacobins (the minor bourgeoisie in alliance with the revolutionary national masses). Bourgeois or democratic republic? The Gironde, which has basically implemented their program, wants to stop the revolution. The Jacobins want its continuation till universal happiness, equality and freedom are achieved. Marat in the "Journal of the French Republic" criticises the Girondists for the speculations, the illegal enrichment, the excessive increase of prices and sees output in the complete destruction of the "damn litter." With this he earns prosecution by the Girondists, however, he wins the love of the people who carry him on their arms on the way out from the court, shouting "Long live the republic, the freedom and Marat".

On the 2nd of June, 1793 a Jacobin dictatorship is established. The agrarian reform completely destroys the feudality law, a "maximum" price of basic necessities is set and the outside enemies of the republic are crushed. The revolution is in the peak of its development. The "Furious" do not want the freedom to be just an "empty ghost when one class can plague from hunger the other" (Jacques Roux). The Jacobins issue the most democratic constitution of the XVIII and XIX centuries announcing France as a Democratic Republic and disclose freedom, equality and universal happiness for the people as a main objective of the government. The reaction raises its head. So Robespierre says "There is no freedom for the enemies of freedom," and issues the law on suspects, for "those who with attitude or connections, speeches or writings have appeared as supporters of tyranny, feudalism and freedom enemies...“ He silences the Brisontine or Girontine press. Days before the coup he also silenced the Ebertine with its newspaper Le Pere Duchesne, the Dantonine (or the linient) with Le Vieux Cordelier of Camille Desmoulins.

27 Germinal. The Coup of the Big Bourgeoisie

and the beginning of its complete domination. With cries "Long live freedom! Long live the Republic!" one of the biggest crimes on the people is conducted. Without trial the Jacobin leaders are murdered – the Robespierre brothers, Saint Just, Couthon, Lebas. The terrible terror completely destroys the press. When Napoleon comes to power, he only needs to finish the job with the law of 27 Vantoz.

The people's reactions to terror are their volts. Among the persecution of the revolutionary-minded masses Babeuf’s voice is heard: "People of France! You were not placed in less favourable conditions than any other nation of this unhappy land ... From immemorial times they hypocritically repeat that people are equal; from immemorial times the most humiliating, the most monstrous inequality rules over humankind ... People of France! ... Confess and proclaim with us the Republic of Equality!" These words of Babeuf and his comrades send them to the guillotine.
Nevertheless, the rushing to the freedom decade

1789 - 1799 is Widely Believed to be a Period of the Flourishing Press

Until the turn of the century (1800) more than 1,350 newspapers came out, the list can be read in the catalogue of Gerard Walter, released in 1943. After the General States convention, the number grows phenomenally - 250 titles for half a year and 350 new ones during 1790. During this period the star of some of the best journalists of France rises. Although everyone considered themselves as journalist, many famous names appeared: Mirabeau in the Courrier de Provence, Suleau in Actes des Apotres, Linguet in Annales Politiques, Marat in Ami du Peuple, Brissot and Patriote Francais, Fauchet and Bouche de Fer, Desmoulins and Vieux Cordelier, Momoro and Journal du Club des Cordeliers, Robespierre as an assistant in Defenseur de la Constitution, Condorcet, editor of the Chronique du Mois, Hebert u Le Pere Duchesne. The number of publications creates the illusion that the press has unlimited freedom. In fact, all journalists except Mirabeau died of violent death. The scaffold is the fate of anyone who can afford to express an opinion different from the official one. The impetus of the era of freedom captivates journalism as well. And freedom is always paid off expensively. After the coup of 18 Fruktidor, hundreds of journalists were arrested and exiled in the island of Oléron.

What Happens to the Newspapers?

Each has a different fate. Mercure de France defends its existence for almost three centuries - until 1965. Le Moniteur Universel (Global Monitor) created by Panckoucke in May 1789, became the Official Journal of the Republic. It carefully complied with all positions during the revolutionary years; it has a strong literary part, entrusted to La Harpe. Le Patriote Francais (French patriot) is defined by the historian Eugène Hatin as "paper model" press of the era. The newspaper Brissot boldly proclaimed: "We allow ourselves to publish a newspaper - political, national and free, independent of censors and any other kind of influence." From its pages, the Girondist Party’s history can be recovered and the history of the revolution as seen through the eyes of the Girondist. This newspaper and Marat’s newspaper and all other newspapers with clear political positions, do not get longevity. Ami du Peuple (friend of the people) is released in small runs - two thousand copies, and for its 8 pages is quite expensive. Its distribution is through public reading clubs in the garden of the Palais-Royal and other places where the orators have the word. Expressing the position of the Jacobins, "Friend of the People" is a newspaper that makes revelations. Marat criticizes the manoeuvres of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, he condemns the collusive policy of the Girondists and is among the first to recognize the rightness of the demands of the "mad" for the "ceiling" prices. The death of Marat ends the release of the paper.

Conversely to Ami du Peuple, Ami du Roi presents the revolution as a conspiracy against the monarchy and property, making it the first royal newspaper. And there are newspapers as Journal de Paris, the first daily newspaper in France, which content includes more literary materials announced for shows and gossip. The editorial is burned, but it quickly recovers and goes on until 1811. While journalism has its heyday in the years of the revolution, the literature cannot boast of such thing.

The French Literary Scholars Marked the Period as a "Desert" One

Cazotte, Andre Chenier, Florian find their death on the scaffold. During the reign of terror most literary salons disappeared. Chateaubriand, Joseph de Maistre, La Harpe, Jacques Mallet du Pan migrate. In 1791, however, the first documents that protect copyrights are voted. Plays or books cannot be published without the consent of the author or their heirs for 10 years after their death. The dramatic authors form a company to protect their rights. Otherwise the theatre of this period tends to melodrama. And while the situation with literature during the period is quite critical, it is not the case with memoirs. Individuals participating in events during this period think that they are of historical significance as freedom fighters. Although the true creators of history did not have time to leave memories behind: Marat, Mirabeau, Saint Just. Only Manon Roland and Barbaroux hastily edited several pages before they die. The total number of lyrics - memoirs and recollections of contemporaries of the French revolution is over 1400.

When we write for publications during the revolution, we cannot fail to note those who with their effort made the works of journalists, writers, play-writers available.

Among the Printers There are Prominent Revolutionaries

active in their participation in the events of 1789 - 1799, influential members of the Club des Cordeliers. Printing presses were small, with 2-3 or more apprentices. Circulations were also not great. Momoro boasts that he is the first printer of freedom, invented the slogan "Liberty, equality, fraternity" which was painted on the facades of public buildings. Siyom Bryon from the printing house on Commerce Street is in the General Staff of General Dumouriez, a friend of Danton. Panckoucke, the publisher of Voltaire and other great writers, owns the "World Monitor". Typical for its time is the printing house Jean-Baptiste Ryuar. With little money and some links in the Club of the Jacobins, printing house with three printers and one apprentice opens on the Saint-André-des-Arts street. It even considers publishing its own newspaper. 500 subscribers, who pay 2 sous on one issue, are sufficient for balancing the budget. Very enthusiastic about this venture, Ryuar wants his eldest son to help him. But Antoine prefers Dumouriez’s army. When the motherland is threatened by a foreign enemy, he takes up the call to those who remember constantly that they are French and they are free.

Photo: Place de la Bastille, Paris © Ministère des Affaires étrangères. Photo Y-J. Chen