Jean Sylvain Bailly

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Jean Sylvain Bailly
Jean Sylvain Bailly, maire de Paris.jpg
Jean Sylvain Bailly by Jean-Laurent Mosnier (1789) (Carnavalet Museum, Paris)
1st Mayor of Paris
In office
15 July 1789 – 18 November 1791
Preceded by Jacques de Flesselles (Provost of the Merchants)
Succeeded by Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve
1st President of the National Constituent Assembly
In office
17 June 1789 – 3 July 1789
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Jean Georges Lefranc de Pompignan
Deputy of the Estates-General
In office
5 May 1789 – 9 July 1789
Constituency Paris
Personal details
Born (1736-09-15)15 September 1736
Paris, France
Died 12 November 1793(1793-11-12) (aged 57)
Paris, France
Cause of death Guillotined
Nationality French
Political party Patriotic (1790–1791)
Residence Paris (1736–1791)
Nancy (1791–1793)
Alma mater Academy of Sciences
French Academy
Profession Astronomer, mathematician, politician
Religion Roman Catholicism [source needed]
Signature

Jean Sylvain Bailly (French: [bɑji]; 15 September 1736 – 12 November 1793) was a French astronomer, mathematician, freemason,[1][2] and political leader of the early part of the French Revolution. He presided over the Tennis Court Oath, served as the mayor of Paris from 1789 to 1791, and was ultimately guillotined during the Reign of Terror.

Scientific career[edit]

Born in Paris, Bailly was the son of Jacques Bailly, an artist and supervisor of the Louvre, and the grandson of Nicholas Bailly, also an artist and court painter. As a child he originally intended to follow in his family's footsteps and pursue a career in the arts. He became deeply attracted to science, however, particularly astronomy, by the influence of Nicolas de Lacaille. An excellent student with a "particularly retentive memory and inexhaustible patience",[3] he calculated an orbit for the next appearance of Halley's Comet (in 1759), and correctly reduced Lacaille's observations of 515 stars. He participated in the construction of an observatory at the Louvre. These achievements along with others got him elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1763.[3] In the years prior to the French Revolution, Bailly's distinctive reputation as a French astronomer led to his recognition and admiration by the European scientific community.[4] Due to his popularity amongst the scientific groups, in 1777, Bailly received Benjamin Franklin as a guest in his house in Chaillot.[5]

Scientific papers[edit]

Bailly published his Essay on The Theory of the Satellites of Jupiter in 1766.a The essay was an expansion of a presentation he had made to the Academy in 1763. He later released the noteworthy dissertation On the Inequalities of Light of the Satellites of Jupiterb in 1771. In 1778, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Bailly gained a high literary reputation thanks to his Éloges of King Charles V of France, Lacaille, Molière, Pierre Corneille and Gottfried Leibniz, which were issued in collected form in 1770 and 1790. He was admitted to the Académie française on 26 February 1784 and to the Académie des Inscriptions in 1785. From then on, Bailly devoted himself to the history of science. He published A History of Ancient Astronomy c in 1775, followed by A History of Modern Astronomy (3 vols., 1782).d Other works include Discourse on the Origin of the Sciences and the Peoples of Asia (1777),e Discourse on Plato's 'Atlantide' (1779),f and A Treatise on Indian and Oriental Astronomy (1787).g Though his works were "universally admired" by contemporaries,[3] later commentators have remarked that "their erudition was… marred by speculative extravagances."[6]

During the French Revolution[edit]

In a short period of time, Bailly made his way up the judicial ranks. From being the deputy of Paris, he was elected Estates-General on 20 May 1789.[7] Soon after he was elected inaugural president of the National Assembly (3 June 1789)[8] and led the famous proceedings in the Tennis Court on 20 June, being the first to take the Tennis Court Oath.[9] Shortly after the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, he became the first mayor of Paris under the newly adopted system of the Commune.[10]

Sketch by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath. Bailly is pictured in the centre, facing the viewer, his right hand raised.
J.S.Bailly, by Garneray and Alix, after the David's scene above

Mayor of Paris[edit]

On 15 July 1789, Bailly took office as the mayor of Paris. Two days later he was met by Louis XVI at the Hôtel de Ville who was there to endorse the Revolution. Bailly presented him with the new symbol of the revolution: the tricolour cockade.[11]

In his function as mayor, he was attacked by Camille Desmoulins and Jean-Paul Marat as too conservative.[12] Bailly continuously sought to promote the authority of the mayor while limiting the power of the General Assembly of the Commune.

During his reign as mayor, Bailly secured the passage of a decree that declared Jews to be French citizens on 17 September 1791. He was met with threats and ridicule for this action. This decree repealed the special taxes that had been imposed on the Jews, as well as all the ordinances existing against them.[13]

After a failed attempt by the royal family to flee the country, Bailly tried to contain the growing republican crowds asking for the King to step down. On 17 July 1791, he imposed martial law and ordered the National Guard to disperse a large riotous assembly calling for the deposition of the King. He was thus, with Lafayette, held responsible for the Champ de Mars Massacre. Having thereby become extremely unpopular, he resigned on 12 November and was replaced four days later by Jerôme Pétion on 16 November. Bailly moved to Nantes where he composed his Mémoires d'un Témoin (published in 3 vols. by MM. Berville and Barrière, 1821–1822), an incomplete narrative of the extraordinary events of his public life.

Maintaining order[edit]

Jean Sylvain Bailly sought to be in full control of his administration as the mayor of Paris.[14] He envisioned being in a position where all answered to him, and only his orders were to be followed.[15] Creating a centralized government within Paris was his plan, however Parisians were not keen with this vision.[16] His views are depicted in the following passage of his Mémoires:

"... in the executive assembly, the mayor who presides over it is a specific officer of the commune. This Assembly possesses the totality of power, but its chief is its agent, its executive authority, who should be charged with the execution of its orders and the maintenance of its regulations. Moreover, since he is at the head of the administration, he understands all of its branches and has all of its strings in his hands. He is in a better position to detect the difficulties and the dangers than the other members who do not have the same information. If the law does not demand it, reason dictates that no important step be taken and no important questions be decided in his absence, unless he be allowed at least to make observations..."[17][14]

Food crisis[edit]

During the early years of the French Revolution, Paris was going through a major food shortage. Bailly's actions to circumvent the situation were of great importance in keeping the revolution alive. Bailly had deputies gather grain that was being hoarded, made the sale of wheat mandatory by farmers, and helped the bakers by making them first in line in the village markets.[18] Convoys that transported grain obtained by deputies were often attacked. As a way to deter these attacks, Bailly signed a decree that imposed a fine of five hundred livres on anyone who attempted to get in the way of such convoys.[19] Not only did the mayor control the supply of grain in the city, but he also imported grain from Africa to increase the city's reserve.[19] A provisional regime was established in October, 1789, in order to stabilize the administration of the government.[20] Doing so led to order being established within the different jurisdictions, allowing The Communal Assembly, with the help of Bailly, to gain control of the food crisis. By February, 1790, the situation in Paris had improved.[21]

National guard[edit]

The National Guard, formed during the revolution by The Communal Assembly, was weak and underfunded.[22] Lafayette, chief of the militia, could only do so much to strengthen this newly formed military. It took persuading to get funding from the Assembly to cover the cost and wages brought on by the troops.[23] Bailly saw the importance of having a military that was well-equipped. In the fall of 1789, Bailly was able to acquire ammunition for the troops.[22] In October of 1789, Bailly was involved in the establishment of the National Guard department, whose purpose was to arm the military.[22] The mayor not only played a role in strengthening the National Guard, but also issued orders to Lafayette when trying to maintain civility within the city.[24] Bailly's use of troops were to secure the prisons, certify the droits d'entrée would be collected, and to assure there would no longer be agglomeration of beggars in the city.[24]

Church property[edit]

To fix the financial situation in France, the National Assembly took control over church property that individuals could later buy with bonds it had issued.[25] These non-negotiable bonds, known as assignats, did not sell very well.[25] Bailly along with the Municipal Bureau had come up with a proposition on March 10, 1790, asking the government to give the city of Paris 200,000,000 livres worth of church land for it to sell to private investors in a period of three years.[26] For their work in selling the land, Bailly and his administration would retain 50,000,000 livres.[27] The National Assembly agreed to this deal.[28] In August of the year 1790, Bailly allowed investors to begin the purchasing of church property.[29] A year had yet to pass before 28,000,000 livres worth of land had already been sold.[30] Bailly's proposal proved to be successful in making not only Paris revenue, but also the French state.[30]

Political club affiliation[edit]

Bailly was a member of the Club de 1789, one of the most well-known societies at the time.[31] His involvement in the group was scarce due to his lack of time as he presided as mayor of Paris.[31] Nevertheless, in May, 1790, Bailly was the presiding officer of the Club de 1798.[31] Accusations made by the Révolutions de Paris of the mayor being an active member came soon after he attended a dinner later that year, in June.[31] In 1791, Jean Sylvain Bailly joined the Jacobin Club, but no active role was taken by him.[31]

Democratic ideas in Paris[edit]

The ideals of democracy grew within the Parisian government in the later part of 1790.[32] Bailly along with Lafayette faced backlash from those who believed in moving forward with a democracy.[33] Regardless of the fact information presented about the mayor's attitudes and opinions were inaccurate and over exaggerated, public opinion towards Bailly began shifting as the attacks grew stronger.[33] The mayor of Paris was criticized by the Révolutions de Paris for not backing the revolution with enough vigor.[33]

Execution[edit]

In July 1793, Bailly left Nantes to join his friend Pierre Simon Laplace at Melun, but was there recognised and arrested. On 14 October, he was pressed to testify against Marie Antoinette but refused. On 10 November, he was brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal in Paris, speedily tried, and sentenced to death the next day. On 12 November, he was guillotined at Champ de Mars, a site selected symbolically as the location of his betrayal of the democratic movement. He was forced to endure the freezing rain and the insults of a howling mob. When a scoffer shouted, "Tu trembles, Bailly?" ("Do you tremble, Bailly?"), he stoically responded, "Oui, mais c'est seulement de froid." ("Yes, but it is only the cold.") In the words of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, "He met his death with patient dignity; having, indeed, disastrously shared the enthusiasms of his age, but taken no share in its crimes."

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cara, Monique; Cara, Jean-Marc; Jode, Marc (2011). Dictionnaire universel de la Franc-Maçonnerie (in French). Larousse. ISBN 9782035861368. 
  2. ^ Pierrat, Emmanuel; Kupferman, Laurent (2013). Le Paris des Francs-Maçons (in French). Le Cherche Midi. ISBN 9782749131429. 
  3. ^ a b c Stephens, p. 51.
  4. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana : University of Illinois Press. p. 1. 
  5. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 2. 
  6. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
  7. ^ Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.96
  8. ^ Chronicle of the French Revolution p.98, Longman 1989
  9. ^ Citizens, Simon Schama, Penguin 1989 p.359
  10. ^ Citizens, Simon Schama, Penguin 1989 p.348
  11. ^ Citizens, Simon Schama Penguin 1989 p.424
  12. ^ Citizens, Simon Schama Penguin 1989 p.499
  13. ^ The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, pp. 455-6 http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2373-bailly-jean-sylvain
  14. ^ a b Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 38. 
  15. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 38. 
  16. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 38. 
  17. ^ Bailly, Jean Sylvain (1821). Mémoires D’un Témoin de la Révolution, ou Journal. Paris: Baudouin frères. pp. 106–07. 
  18. ^ Brucker, Gene A (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 42. 
  19. ^ a b Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 43. 
  20. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 40. 
  21. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 41. 
  22. ^ a b c Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 49. 
  23. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois. p. 49. 
  24. ^ a b Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 50. 
  25. ^ a b Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 53. 
  26. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. pp. 53–4. 
  27. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 54. 
  28. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 54. 
  29. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 55. 
  30. ^ a b Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 56. 
  31. ^ a b c d e Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 98. 
  32. ^ Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 99. 
  33. ^ a b c Brucker, Gene A. (1950). Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Revolutionary Mayor of Paris. Illinois: Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. p. 100. 

Works[edit]

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Eloges by Merard de Saint Just, Delisle de Salles, Jérôme Lalande and Lacretelle
  • A memoir by François Arago, read on 26 February 1844 before the Academie des Sciences, and published in Notices biographiques, t. ii. (1852)
  • Delambre, Histoire de l'astronomie au 18me siecle, p. 735
  • Jérôme Lalande, Bibliographie astronomique, p. 730.

External links[edit]