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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Jean Paul Marat

  • [A Jacobin demagogue, born near Neuchâtel, 1744; practised medicine in Paris before the Revolution; member of the Convention, and formed with Danton and Robespierre the triumvirate of the Reign of Terror; was the most determined enemy of the Royalists and the Girondists; assassinated by Charlotte Corday, July, 1793.]
  • When Marat dies, Paris dies: when Paris dies, the republic will be no more (Le jour où Marat mourra, il n’y aura plus de Paris; et le jour ou Paris périra, il n’y aura plus de république).

  • To some one who cried in the Convention, May, 1793, “Death to Marat!” The majority of the Convention ordered Marat’s arrest for outrages committed against that assembly. He was, however, acquitted by the Revolutionary Tribunal, and escorted back to the Convention by the mob. He uttered a probably unconscious parody of the prophecy of the pilgrims to the Eternal City, recorded by the Venerable Bede, and expressed in Byron’s familiar verse:—
  • “While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
  • When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
  • And when Rome falls—the world.”
  • Childe Harold, IV. 145.
  • Give me two hundred Neapolitans armed with daggers, and only a muff on their left arms for a buckler, and with them I will overrun France, and accomplish the Revolution.

  • To Barbaroux (in 1791), who had been his pupil. “Were it not singular,” asks Carlyle (“French Revolution”), “if this dirk-and-muff plan of his (with superficial modifications) should be precisely the plan adopted?”
  • Landed but yesterday on an unknown island, we must now burn the ship which brought us to it (Abordés d’hier dans une île nouvelle, it faut brûler maintenant le vaisseau qui nous a conduits).

  • Voting for the death of Louis XVI. The act of burning one’s ships dates from ancient times. Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse, whose expedition against Carthage, 310–307 B.C., gave rise to the expression, “To carry the war into Africa,” destroyed the ships which had conveyed his army thither; Julian the Apostate fired his magazines and eleven hundred vessels in the Tigris, whence he began his march against Sapor, King of Persia, 363 B.C.; Robert Guiscard burned his fleet and baggage, and then defeated the Greek Emperor Alexius at Durazzo, A.D. 1084; and Cortez gave a proverbial character to a similar action on the coast of Mexico in 1519.