Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville
Born in Herouël, a village in the département of the Aisne, he studied law and was originally a procureur attached to the Châtelet in Paris. After falling in debt, he sold his office in 1783, and became a clerk under the lieutenant-general of police.
He seems to have adopted revolutionary ideas early on, but little is known of the part he played at the outbreak of the Revolution. Backed by his cousin Camille Desmoulins, Fouquier de Tinville became the foreman of a jury established to pass verdict on crimes of Royalists arrested after the journée du 10 août (1792).
His activity during this time earned him the reputation of one of the most sinister figures of the Revolution.1 His office as public prosecutor arguably reflected a need to display the appearance of legality during what was essentially political command, more than a need to establish actual guilt. Fouquier de Tinville, like Maximilien Robespierre, was known for his ruthless radicalism, and he seldom failed to secure a conviction; he acted as prosecutor in the trials of, among many others, Charlotte Corday, Marie Antoinette, the Girondist leadership, Antoine Barnave, Jacques Hébert and his supporters, as well as that of the Dantonists.
His career ended with the fall of Robespierre at the start of the Thermidorian Reaction. Although he was briefly kept as the new government's prosecutor, even helping in the arrest of Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just, and Georges Couthon, and being confirmed by Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac and the Convention on 28 July, he was arrested after being denounced by Louis-Marie Stanislas Fréron.
Imprisoned on 1 August, he was brought to trial in front of the Convention. His defense was that he had only obeyed the orders of the Committee of Public Safety:
It is not I who ought to be facing the tribunal, but the chiefs whose orders I have executed. I had only acted in the spirit of the laws passed by a Convention invested with all powers. Through the absence of its members [on trial], I find myself the head of a [political] conspiracy I have never been aware of. Here I am facing slander, [facing] a people always eager to find others responsible.
After a trial lasting forty-one days, he was sentenced to death and guillotined on 7 May 1795, together with 15 of his accomplices.
- de Gramont, Sanche, The French, Portrait of a People, Putnam's, New York, 1969, p. 122
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fouquier-Tinville, Antoine Quentin". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. In turn, it cites as references:
- Mémoire pour A. Q. Fouquier ex-accusateur public près le tribunal révolutionnaire, etc. (Paris, 1794)
- M. Domenget, Fouquier-Tinville et le tribunal révolutionnaire (Paris, 1878)
- George Lecocq, Notes et documents sur Fouquier-Tinville (Paris, 1885)
- Jean Maurice Tourneux, Bibliographie de l'histoire de Paris pendant la Révolution Française, vol. i. Nos. 4445-4454 (1890), an ennumeration of the documents relating to Fouquier-Tinville's trial
- Henri Wallon, Histoire du tribunal révolutionnaire de Paris (1880-1882)
- This article incorporates information from the