Jean Paul Marat, a French revolutionist, born of Protestant parents at Baudry, near Neufchatel, Switzerland, May 24, 1744, assas-sinated in Paris, July 13, 1793. He was educated as a phvsician; but the narrow sphere in which he lived offering scanty means to satisfy his ambition, he went abroad. At 30 years of age he was at Edinburgh, where he obtained a living as private tutor, and published a revolutionary pamphlet in English, entitled "The Chains of Slavery," which appeared in French at Paris in 1702 (latest ed., 1850). In the following year, by a more voluminous publication, De lliomme, ou des pnn-cipes et des lois de Vinfluence de l'ame sur le corps et du corps sur Fame (3 vols., Amsterdam, 11775), he appeared as an opponent of Voltaire, and a literary controversy ensued between them. He removed to Paris, and from 1779 to 1788 published a series of writings, in which he attempted to revolutionize natural philosophy, and to refute the Newtonian theory. His success being far inferior to his pretensions, he relinquished the field of literature and endeavored to establish himself as a physician; hut after many disappointments he was obliged to accept "a position as veterinary surgeon to the count of Artois, afterward Charles X. The outbreak of the revolution gave him the opportunity to play the part of a demagogue.
Although physically not prepossessing, being hardly five feet high, with a strange mixture of the ludicrous and terrible in his countenance, he soon obtained avast influence over the lower elapses by his energy and resolution. On Sept. 12, 1789, he published the first number of the Publiciste Parisien, the title of which was afterward changed into Ami du Peuple. As early as August of that year he had publicly proclaimed that 800 members of the national assembly ought to be hanged, Mirabeau the foremost among them. In the same spirit every page of the Ami du Peuple was written. This journal, under the successive titles Le Journal de la Republique Francaise and Le Pulliciste de la Republique Francaixe, was continued without interruption till July 14, 1793. At the same time he also published several revolutionary pamphlets, and 13 numbers of a political journal entitled Le Junius Frangais. Having been introduced by Danton into the club of the Cordeliers, he created there disturbances so violent that the municipality ordered his arrest in January. 1790. He evaded it by secreting himself in the cellars of the Cordeliers, whence he continued to issue his periodical.
After the king's unsuccessful attempt at flight, Marat again ventured into publicity, and directed his attacks against the Girondists. Having been prosecuted in consequence, he returned to his former underground haunts, from which he again emerged in the riots of Au-gust, 1792. He now became the right-hand man of Danton, then minister of justice, introduced himself into the vigilance committee es-tablished by the municipality of Paris, and was one of the chief instigators of the massacres of September. To reward him for the part he had taken in these atrocities, the people of Paris elected him to the national convention. Here his speeches were received by the party of the majority with a feeling of abhorrence mingled with contempt. They moved a vote of censure against him for having advocated the establishment of adictatorial power. When after angry discussions, the motion was at last withdrawn. Marat produced a pistol from his pocket, exclaiming that, if the motion had passed. he would have blown his brains out in the presence of the convention. Emboldened by impunity, he grew more fanatical every day and his paper denounced the French generals and armies as incapable, and asked for the heads of 270.000 "traitors," and the massacre of three fourths of the members of the convention.
In vain the Girondists endeavored to break down his influence. Under the pressure of popular excitement, created by foreign intervention, the ultra-revolutionary party had gradually obtained the ascendancy, and the most sanguinary proceedings being considered unavoidable in order to prevent a cooperation of the anti-revolutionary elements with the foreign foe, Marat, who excelled all others in this respect, was almost adored by the Parisians as the saviour of the country. Thus, in April, 1793, he succeeded in obtaining the passage of a "law for the arrest of suspicious persons," by the operations of which no fewer than 400,-000 individuals were imprisoned throughout France. Having, as chairman of the Jacobin club, signed an address to the people, in which the assassination of the Girondists was openly called for, he was prosecuted before the revolutionary tribunal. But his trial became a triumph. The public prosecutor, the jurors, and the audience did him homage, and he was carried in triumph to the national convention, where Danton delivered an eloquent eulogy in his honor. He now rapidly rose to the culminating point of his career. Having made the municipality subservient to his plans, he instigated the mob of May 31, 1793, by which the Girondist party was completely destroyed.
With Robespierre and Danton he formed a triumvirate, which for the time determined the destinies of France. Confined by disease in his garret, Marat was restlessly active in stirring up, by letters and denunciations, the passions of the people and of the national convention. He was finally assassinated by Charlotte Corday, while preparing a list of Girondists to be sacrificed to the common weal, only a few days before his life would probably have ended from natural courses. (See Corday.) Robespierre used his death as a pretext for carrying the reign of terror to its utmost extent. Hundreds of victims were sacrificed to the "manes of the martyr." The entire national convention attended his funeral. His body was transferred, Nov. 4, 1793, to the Pantheon, and his portrait, executed by David, adorned the hall of the convention. A pension for life was voted by the "grateful nation " to his concubine. Two years later, when the revolutionary passions had cooled down, the remains of Marat were removed from their resting place and his portrait taken down.
Though vain and egotistic, Marat was doubtless sincere in his sanguinary ravings, and was so disinterested that, even in the height of his power, he lived in the most abject poverty.