Louis Antoine Saint-Just

Louis Antoine Saint-Just

Robespierre's closest associate
Date of Birth: 25.09.1767
Country: France

Biography of Louis Antoine de Saint-Just

Louis Antoine Léon Florel de Saint-Just was born on August 25, 1767, in Decize, in the province of Nivernais, France. His father, Louis Jean de Saint-Just de Richebourg, was a retired captain of the cavalry, and his mother, Marie Anne Robinot, came from a family of landowners. Despite the aristocratic sound of his name, Saint-Just's father did not belong to the noble class by birth but came from a family of estate managers serving the nobility.

Louis Antoine Saint-Just

Saint-Just was the fifth son in the family and could not expect to inherit any wealth. Therefore, he chose a military career, which he pursued for thirty years before retiring and starting a family. It was during his military service that he obtained his noble title. After the birth of his son, he inherited the position of estate manager and moved with his family to Picardy. In 1776, the family acquired a house in Blérancourt, but Saint-Just's father passed away just a year later in September 1777. In the same year, Saint-Just was sent to the Collège of Saint-Nicolas in Soissons.

Louis Antoine Saint-Just

At the college, Saint-Just focused on studying ancient history, classical languages, mathematics, geography, rhetoric, and fine arts. He was considered a gifted student but struggled with strict discipline. He preferred literature that combined freethinking with frivolity and showed interest in the history of his region. After completing his studies at the college, Saint-Just secretly took some silver and ran away to Paris to join the royal guard.

However, due to his underage status, he was arrested and spent six months in a reformatory. During this time, he reflected on the imperfections of society and saw himself as a victim of social injustice. His father's newly acquired nobility had placed him in a certain class isolation. When he proposed to his chosen bride, Thérèse Jouët, her father, a notary from Blérancourt, rejected him and hastily married his daughter to someone within their social circle. These experiences left a mark on the poem he wrote, which included satirical lines against the church, the king, and the authorities. Saint-Just also decided to dedicate himself to the study of law.

After his release, he worked as a clerk for the prosecutor in Soissons and, in October 1787, enrolled at the law faculty of the University of Reims. In May 1789, he anonymously published his poem, which lacked literary merit but attacked the existing order and included numerous frivolous scenes. The poem's publication led to its confiscation, and Saint-Just was declared a fugitive. However, the storming of the Bastille on July 14 saved him from arrest. During the summer of 1789, he led an active life in Paris, attending the sessions of the National Assembly and the Jacobin Club. He met some prominent politicians, including Camille Desmoulins.

In the autumn of 1789, Saint-Just returned to Blérancourt and became involved in the town's public life. He was delegated to the departmental assembly, initiated a patriotic demonstration, and even participated in burning a pamphlet, pledging to die for his homeland. These actions made a strong impression. He was appointed deputy commander of the National Guard of Blérancourt and later elected honorary commander of a National Guard division that went to Paris for the national celebration on July 14, 1790.

In the autumn-winter of 1790, Saint-Just wrote a political treatise titled "The Spirit of the Revolution and the Constitution in France," which was inspired to some extent by Montesquieu's "The Spirit of the Laws." The treatise advocated for constitutional monarchy and a censorship system for electoral rights. The book's publication was successful and increased Saint-Just's popularity. He was initially elected as a deputy to the Legislative Assembly but had his mandate annulled in September 1791 because he had not yet reached the required age of 25.

This setback deeply affected him, but he continued to be involved in the affairs of the Blérancourt commune, analyzing existing legislation and formulating more perfect principles of social organization in a new political treatise. The revolution continued to unfold, and in early 1794, the struggle between political factions intensified. This eventually led to the execution of the Hébertists, followed by the arrest and execution of the Dantonists. The terror escalated. Saint-Just played a sinister role, reading four accusatory reports and essentially taking responsibility for three political trials of leading revolutionary figures, including Georges Danton.

Saint-Just was confident that the revolutionary ideals would soon prevail, but the defeat of the factions did not meet expectations. Protest grew, and the wealthier part of the French population resisted change. Some measures proposed by Saint-Just in favor of the upper classes were inconsistent with the social programs being implemented. He began to feel disillusioned and doubted the success of the revolution. In June 1794, he was sent on a mission to the northern and eastern borders with the Rhine and returned with a victory but refused to report it to the Convention.

A new conspiracy brought together political factions, and on the 9th of Thermidor, during a session of the Convention, Tallien interrupted Saint-Just's speech and accused him of tyranny. For unknown reasons, Saint-Just remained silent and did not try to take the initiative. Later, when armed resistance could still have been organized by the Commune, he, a man of action with significant military experience, also refrained from active participation. He did not resist when arrested and silently ascended the scaffold on the evening of the 10th of Thermidor.