French lawyer, politician and revolutionary. Born 1755, died 1841.

Following service in the parlement of Toulouse, Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac became a member of the National Assembly in 1789, and later President of the National Convention. Barère de Vieuzac also ran a newspaper, Point du Jour, which reported on the debates in the Assembly.

In 1792, when the issue of whether to execute Louis XVI was being debated in the Convention, Barère de Vieuzac spoke out passionately in favour of execution1, saying:

"The tree of liberty would not grow, were it not watered with the blood of kings."2

Although he was originally a constitutional monarchist, he lacked the courage to maintain this moderate view, and preferred to adopt a more rabid posture.

For his flowery but brilliant speeches, he was nicknamed the "Anacreon of the Guillotine". First attacking Robespierre, he later flattered him outrageously, as the political wind changed. He voted for the executions of the Girondins, and played political mediator for the montagnards.

As the political wind changed once more, he helped draw up the report that outlawed Robespierre. However, he himself was accused, together with Billaud-Varenne and Collot d'Herbois, of instigating the Terror. Always a survivor, he evaded arrest and hid. Although he had been elected to the Council of 500, he was not to take his seat.

Under Napoleon Bonaparte, he served as the Emperor's agent. After Napoleon's fall, he was in exile from 1815 to 1830. Returning to France, he held an administrative post in the department of Hautes-Pyrenées.

When he finally died, of old age, in 1841, he was the last survivor of the original membership of the Committee of Public Safety.

1 See Carmagnole.

2 A paraphrase of Thomas Jefferson's famous and much-quoted saying:

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

(Letter from Jefferson to W.S. Smith, November 13, 1787, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 12, p. 356 {1955})

Personal note: I frankly don't know whether to despise this fellow for being a bloody-handed, illoyal coward - or to admire him for being a consummate survivor.

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