de Gouges

English translations of the original French texts

GRAND ECLIPSE
DU SOLIEL JACOBIN
ET
DE LA LUNE FEUILLANTE,

POUR la fin d’Avril, ou dans le courant du mois de Mai ; par la LIBERTÉ l’An IVe de son nom ;


In this pamphlet, written at the end of April 1792, de Gouges attacks both the Jacobins and Feuillants (opposing parties in the Assembly) for their violent, inflammatory, tendencies. Both groups had rebuffed her previous pamphlet, French Commonsense, or the Apologia of True Nobles, and few of their members took note of this one.

DÉDIÉE À LA TERRE [1].


Great eclipse of the Jacobin sun and the Feuillant moon, for the end of April, or the following month of May; by Liberty, in the fourth year of her name; dedicated to the Earth.


Let the Earth awake to the sound of my voice! Kings, pay attention: People, hearken!’ Quotation from a work by Jean-Baptiste Rousseau (1671-1741) a minor poet and satirist; on the poet’s death de Gouges’s father, Jean-Jacques le Franc de Pompignan, wrote him a valedictory ode.

‘Qu’aux accents de ma voix la Terre se réveille!
Rois, soyez attentifs : Peuple, ouvrez l’oreille !’ [2]



The earth shakes, trembles, opens up and humans hear the formidable voice.

Jacobins, Feuillants, who are you? What are you doing? What do you seek?

To soak me in the blood of men; to poison the pure air and the sky’s rosy dawn, which alone can sustain my strength, in order to incite mortals.

Jacobins, Feuillants, are you men or brutes?

If you are creatures blessed with intellectual faculties, answer me.

Why do you blow on the embers of discord? Which Citizens are you dividing? What Kingdom are you seeking to destroy? It is your Motherland! Can you not understand, in this decisive moment, the true interests of a great People? Are you not sentient beings? If you are merely wild beasts then go and drag out your harsh existence in the burning Arabian sands, among the lions and tigers; go and fight these ravenous beasts, mutually tear yourselves apart and cease infecting men with your awful doctrine.

Inchoate union, illegal and despotic, you are responsible for disrupting the Law and disturbing the peace; you are no longer men, you are no longer French. In vain virtuous mortals attempt to speak to you in the name of humanity and nature but your leaden hearts rebuff them and your defamatory tongues besmirch them. Tremble in fear lest on your guilty heads fall the calamities besetting your country; the Motherland is but an empty word in your abject minds! Ambition, cruelty and selfishness that is your Motherland: tremble, I say, supposed supporters of the People and of the Constitution! Now is the time to repent; now is the time to forgive. Foreigners are training their arms at us yet greater enemies can be found within. These fevered lions are dispersed into the two parties; these two parties rule among the Jacobins and the Feuillants.

All that is needed to destroy them is the gathering of virtuous Members in one single and devoted patriotic Society; only this would make an impact on the malicious members of the two clubs. Eclipse yourselves, disappear off together and, like the Phoenix, arise once more from purer ashes and under better auspices.

And you, Kings of the earth, puffed up with empty pride, you are no longer superb idols in the eyes of ignorant people; in the eyes of enlightened men, you are mere men.

Men, Kings, liberated Citizens, be of one accord for the sake of the world; laws are needed, not prejudices: centuries of ignorance created and encouraged prejudice; centuries of enlightenment should make it disappear entirely, if it were not so inseparable from the poor human species.

But, as leaders are needed for the organization of a society let them, like all Citizens, be equal in front of the Law that alone is sovereign and incorruptible: everyone must obey and bend to the Law.

Oh French, you who were the first to recognise the value of its strength and impartiality, let this Law, so redoubtable to the wicked and liberating to the oppressed, be forever encircled by a public authority: this is your idol, the only one that can save you.

I am abandoning the metaphor, I could take it up again too readily, to give my fellow Citizens clear proof of the imminent danger facing the Motherland today; I will serve her to my last breath, and will only go down when she does.

And you, French, betrayed People living in the most beautiful of Kingdoms, recognise the rallying point of your true enemies; it is at the Jacobins’ and the Feuillants’.

Timid virtue, sane philosophy, august truth, arm yourselves with the celestial axe and come and destroy these two modern hydras that are running in tandem to destroy the Empire; one is sharpening its daggers, the other is forging its pikes. These two antagonistic factions, both enemies of the Law, of the Constitution and of men are, each secretly nurturing a monster that will reign over a liberated People. These monsters, you can easily imagine, have different characteristics: one machinates and sets off all the furies of a civil war in order to put France back in the irons of the ancien régime, the other propagates anarchy, in association with brigands who want a share of the assets, who, if armed, will spare no one and who, having cut the throats of three quarters of the Citizens, will set upon each other. Oh Heaven! Save us from these fearful omens.

‘Celui qui met un frein à la fureur des flots,
Sait aussi des méchants arrêter les complots.’ [3]


A quotation from Racine’s Athalie meaning he who can stem the fury of the seas can also prevent the intrigues of the wicked.

Now we have reached the terrible moment that will determine the fate of all People; The Jacobin Sun throws itself at the Feuillant Moon that slowly, tortuously, meanders through the clouds. These two sham astral bodies want to engulf the earth but the earth will rise up and throw them into the deep giving back to the day that radiance that their sinister influence has sullied. Come, virtuous men, fly to my side for it is not a fanatic who speaks to you in the name of Heaven but a woman who uses the language of reason and of nature. My civic duty is unequivocal and insightful since the two factions fear it and beat it away from their hearts; today their condemnation covers me with a triumphant glory that would bring me joy till the end of my days if only it did not represent the misery of my country: French people, bring your attention to bear on the disclosure that I have just offered.

I always considered the Jacobin club to be a necessary antidote to the venom of despotism; today this remedy has become itself a veritable despotic poison capable of an increasing subtlety that may surprise the true friends of the Constitution. I doubted these facts; I wanted to find out more; I wanted to attempt the impossible and present to this [Jacobin] Society the true means to save the Motherland and the virtues of a free people.

I dedicated to it my French Commonsense, or the Apologia of True Nobles; it is common knowledge that the Jacobin Club has deliberated to gratefully receive all works addressed to it, mine alone has received what is probably an honourable exemption for, bearing my name, it has been refused following a lengthy debate. The Author is known, shouted the fanatics of this philosophical Society who render the environs as dangerous for the true friends of liberty as a cave full of brigands do for the unwary traveller. The Author is known to write contrary to our principles: this homage must be refused. This maladroit refusal, deliberated on by the Society, will not surprise the wise for how could these fanatics receive a printed text that exudes only gentle philosophy, the bringing together of all beliefs, the destruction of prejudice and fanaticism and, finally, a love for the other and perfect equality. Some Members of the National Assembly, having read this work, were outraged by the refusal and encouraged me to appeal to another Assembly. On the 18th of this month, a Wednesday, I addressed it to the National Assembly with a etter that I will include at the end. This letter was applauded up to the part where I gave justice to M. Pétion for the festival that others reproach. [4] I lack the dreadful talent that allows one to degrade a man when he is doing good; I lack the art of mind reading;

Jérôme Pétion (1756 – 1794), a constitutional monarchist (he was part of the delegation sent bythe National Assembly to bring back Louis XVI and his family from Varennes in June 1791) and Robespierre’s friend, was the Mayor of Paris from November 1791 to October 1792. President of the Jacobins in September 1792 he veered towards the Girondins and lost the support of Robespierre; as the latter’s star rose Pétion’s fell. He was proscribed in June 1793, lived in hiding for a year, and committed suicide in June 1794, days before Robespierre’s fall from power. His body was found in a field partially eaten by wild animals.
I can only judge from the facts. I believe M. Pétion to be neither a Jacobin nor a Feuillant; though he may previously have been one of them today he is neither one nor the other: man can only learn from experience and he has learnt to fulfil the duty of a true Magistrate or so I judged when he was reduced to a dreadful position by the Jacobin initiative on that vexatious, extravagant, criminal pomp that was harmful to Law and Order, to the national dignity and to all that a People has a right to ordain. He saw the rapacious brigands abandon the entire People to the severity of the Law; he knew how to meet the needs of these good people and the execrable Feuillants, for their part, can neither forgive him nor contain their fury. The French Commonsense unmasks them. They all cry out ‘call for order’ yet at the same time they demand the Text. Barely have they cast their eyes over the dedication addressed to the Jacobins than they denounce it as incendiary. ‘Mr. President,’ cry out the former ministerial men, ‘a decree, a decree to prevent the distribution of such a suspect Text.’ The order of the day is past; I am no longer in any doubt as to the true enemies of the Motherland. It has to be admitted that these last are not the most dangerous for they do not hide, like others, under the cloak of patriotism nor do the majority of Citizens support them: soon even the Jacobins will only have a minority behind them.

It will take this level of confusion to make the mass of French unite to destroy these two enemy castes,enemies of the Motherland. That day of freedom will be one full of solemnity for the Kingdom and should be commemorated throughout the country with all due National pomp.A patriotic celebration should be held on the same day, at the same hour, like that of the Federation, with liberty on a triumphal chariot surrounded by all our great men: this is the celebration that we should arrange.

I was assured that four giant pygmies of the Jacobin Sun had threatened me with the infamous lantern. Oh Jacobin Sun! Now is the time to cite the Gascon’s two verses:

‘Cadédis tu mé bernes,

d’avoir mis le Soleil entre quatre lanternes.’ [5]


The ‘lanterne’ or lamppost was used as a summary gibbet during riots and uprisings. De Gouges quotes a famous saying from the previous century when Francois d’Aubusson, in March 1686, inaugurated the square he had built in honour of Louis XIV called la Place des Victoires. At its centre was a large statue of the Sun King. A visiting Gascon allegedly exclaimed, upon seeing it: ‘ Cadedis (Gascon swear word) that’s a joke, putting the sun between four lanterns’.

You [1st p.s] serve only to light up a den of brigands, you rise and fall for the Society, stealing the day from its respectable Members, wounding me in the process therefore I find your rays offensive.

You cannot imagine that I will attack you with your own arms. In pursuing you in the name of the Motherland I may be risking death but if I save it I will fly to the Pantheon so, [Jacobin Sun] please do not restrain yourself, send me your harpies.

And you, respectable Members of this Society, flee this place where they blind you to the perfidious machinations that seek to divide the Kingdom!

Compare this sect to that of the Jesuits; not everyone was initiated into their secrets. Flee these confused hordes, this appalling mix of Feuillants, Aristocrats, Emissaries from Coblenz, brigands of every hue, every type, every condition who seek to found their success only alongside those Citizens who are property owners. [6]


Coblenz became the meeting point for many royalist emigrés, in particular Louis XVI's two younger brothers, the Comte de Provence and the Comte d'Artois.

But their guilty projects are foiled; their intrigues tangled up. The flawed celebration on behalf of the soldiers, targets of their ambitious plans, and not for liberty, humiliated all Citizens and all the Military; public authority is on the side of reason and the Motherland. [7] If this same Motherland had been initially celebrated in the name of Liberty then the world would have


On 15 April 1792 a celebratory parade took place in Paris in support of the members of the Châteauvieux Swiss Guards who had mutinied, among others, in the summer of 1790 in Nancy. The mutiny was suppressed and the Swiss guards severely punished (many receiving the death penalty) for behaviour particularly unacceptable in a regiment that for over a century and a half had formed part of the king’s military household. In 1792 political thinking changed and the remaining soldiers, serving virtual life-sentences as galley prisoners, were pardoned and brought to Paris in celebration. De Gouges did not hold with this parade possibly because of its Jacobin support and/or because her son was a professional officer in an army riven with dissent.
flown to her side: hide yourself in the shadows, Jacobin Sun, and you, April Moon, sink into oblivion, your ill-intentioned rays are harming the sap of the constitutional tree and hindering the development of its branches that, without distinction, must shelter all Citizens from the abuses of tyranny and slavery. Fight it out between you and let the earth, lit by the enlightenment of men and by the sphere of Heaven create this great eclipse then we can all sing the beloved refrain: ça ira. [8]


This popular revolutionary song dates from May or June 1790 when its lyrics were innocent of the call to hang aristocrats from lampposts; the incendiary lyrics were probably added in the summer of 1792. It is unlikely that de Gouges, a pacifist by nature, would have been attracted to the later, violent, version.

I must attach to this opuscule the address that provoked yet more outrage from the Jacobins: several Members of the National Assembly, whose patriotism is not in doubt, were outraged.


Copy of the Address given to the Jacobins


Mr President,

Through the Society of the Friends of the Constitution I am sending you the eight hundred copies that I mentioned to them last Saturday. I have heard that some Members of the Society rose up against this production, which, without being read, was proscribed by the Society contrary to its deliberations, and to add insult to injury, it was denounced by the Feuillants at the National Assembly for the sole reason that it was addressed to the Jacobins. The Feuillants calumniated it, denounced it and prevented the reading of an address that had been applauded up until these words:

The invaluable behaviour of M. Pétion has saved us all. The Mayor of Paris, in giving the People the satisfaction of celebrating liberty without pomp, found a sublime method to confound the enemies of the Motherland. If he had not given them this slender recompense, the People would be rioting by now and no doubt the scenes of Nancy and the Champ-de-Mars would have been repeated but with even more bloodshed. The ferocious Coblenz camp would have rapidly blamed this respectable Magistrate for our problems and made of him a loathsome popular style Bouillé; but M. Pétion reacted prudently and he is no longer seen as a troublemaker by his enemies. [9] How could they implicate him now?


General François Claude de Bouillé suppressed the Nancy mutiny resulting in heavy casualties.


This, Gentlemen, is what displeased the former ministers. I am not interested in their disapproval but it is important to understand, for my part, could have displeased the Society of the Friends of the Constitution.

I was never seen soliciting either honours or recompense at the bar of the National Constituent Assembly though everyone knows that I had a right to them; my ambition is merely to gain the esteem of the citizens given without reproach and it is with this hope in mind that, Mister President, I appeal to both an unwary society and one that is vigilant and fair.

Is it believable that those who protested the loudest against the acceptance of this work are Robespierre, Collot d’Herbois, Carra and Philippes?

The Jacobins and the Feuillants are my enemies only because I burn with the purest civic duty for one and the same Motherland that they are tearing apart with all their might.

The true patriots of the National Assembly and the Jacobin Club sought to console me by stating that this rejection on the part of both Societies covered me in glory; what do I care for this glory if my Motherland is endangered! Several of those who praise my patriotism and my imperturbable probity, both motivated by the necessity of rising up against these two destructive parties, also describe the small-minded injustice of the Jacobin Society.

I would have had them [the letters of praise] printed but I learnt that the troublemakers within this club would not forgive M. Pétion for having written to me as a philosopher and a friend of mankind; his letter taught me to know him better and can only do him honour in the minds of most good Citizens. Vile calumniators of the two parties, infernal monsters for whom ferocious hatred is a sweet passion; I unmask you and I challenge you.


‘C’est vous de qui les mains impures,
Traînent le tissu détesté,
Qui fait trébucher l’équité
Dans le piège des impostures.
Lâches, aux cabales vendus,
Artisans de fourbes obscures,
Habiles seulement à noircir les vertus.’ [10]



A quotation from Jean-Baptiste Rousseau’s Ode IV against hypocrisy, based on psalm 58, which translates as: It is you whose impure hands trail the detestable tissue of lies that tips fairness into deceit’s trap. Cowards, creators of obscure untruths, you have sold yourselves to the cabals and are only good at blackening virtue.

And you, M. Pétion, in your reply to M. de Nemours in defence of this corrupt Society (though like me you take the part of the honest men who are among its members), were unable to disguise your opinion or to delude anyone, showing in the circumstances an enviously dignified character. The great Simoneau is dead for the Motherland; you follow in his footsteps. [11]


Simoneau, Mayor of Etampes, was killed on 3 March 1792 in confusing circumstances after an uprising in the town caused by grievances against the rising cost of staple goods. His murder was a cause célebre that divided opinion. He was posthumously honoured as an upholder of civil law by the Legislative Assembly, a festival in his honour, the Fête de la Loi, was held on 3 June 1792; Olympe de Gouges organised a female procession within the cortege to highlight the importance of women in public life, some commentators were in favour, others (generally the most revolutionary) were violently against women participating in such activities.

The Jacobin Club, like that of the Feuillants, will not spare you if you do not have the surprising art, or to put it better, the merit of being able to contain them. Unjust, cruel, tyrants they want to reign over a free people; they preach equality and liberty yet they command opinion like despots and already trace a demarcation line between the people and the good citizens who serve them loyally. These Societies closely resemble the country of the Inquisition, the irons of Slaves, the power of the great Turk and the total caprice of the Janissaries; all that degrades the merits of mankind are nothing in comparison to the absurd pretensions and the supreme will of these clubs. These, Mayor of Paris, irreproachable Magistrate, are the two more or less formidable factions that surround you.

My words will raise two enemy armies against me, I know. In vain have my friends tried to persuade me not to print this opuscule, all they obtained from me was the sacrifice of greater, stronger truths. I have nothing to reproach myself, I fear nothing, I ask for nothing, I have made all the sacrifices of which a brave man would be capable in defence of such a beautiful cause; all that is left is for me to sacrifice my life: I would lose it without a qualm if it served my country to do so. And you, troublemakers of both parties, discover what moves the feeble and timid sex when it is driven by love of the Motherland; personal interests, recompense and honours are nothing in my eyes; had I been able to imitate you and, like you, been base enough to listen only to my personal interests then I would no doubt have satisfied a guilty ambition. Injustice never served crime better than now when men maintain they are reforming themselves; virtue goes unheard so much do intrigue and cabals dominate overall; but I will stop. The great movement that is in preparation imposes a more sacred duty upon me than to pursue my denunciators; I need to forgive and to ask pardon from the two Clubs that will lose France if honest people do not unite to disarm them; I will go first: in the name of the Motherland, Frenchmen, members of the famous Clubs, put a brake on your passions, on your personal hatreds, look into the depths of your consciences and recognise the danger to the Motherland, find there the love of your country and you will give me the credit I am due! If all the Citizens do not arise with one voice to rally around this country, impartial mother to us all, woe betide the ungrateful sons who betray her. They blindly follow the path against their country marked out for them by the Eumenides; the inevitable remorse of the matricide awaits their return. [12] Is it not enough that the expatriated rebels are threatening her with total ruin; should not the Citizens


De Gouges uses ‘parricide’; I have translated it as matricide to conform to the decision I took to use Motherland for ‘Patrie’. Eumenides is another name for the Furies of Greek myth, deities of vengeance.
left in the country stay faithful and resolutely take the universal decision to unite opinion in order to confound the troublemakers of the two parties?

Oh Jacobin Sun, and you Feuillant Moon, eclipse yourselves both and if you reappear under different auspices then fly to the defence of the Motherland. The earth wills it and reason commands it. Oh my fellow citizens, do not forget the terrible day of the King’s departure; what a beautiful day it was! How great were the French people! There was no more hate, no more political division; fraternity was on the lips of all Citizens. This memorable day that immortalizes all the French will teach tyrants in distant times, should there be any left, to respect and admire popular ideals. Let them even admire the voluntary patriotic tax, an incalculable aid to sustain the cost of war! When I proposed it in 1788, when I suggested that this tax would aid France more than enforced contribution I was not wrong, for I knew the French well, and the second edition of the engraving that I published at the time will confirm the truth of what I say.


LETTER TO THE FRENCH [13]


This letter was first produced as a poster and then added to ‘Eclipse’ to create a pamphlet: it is a plea to her fellow citizens to unite, peacefully, for the good of their country

French, the Universe has its eyes on this globe; you have given new laws to the world. This great monument is one of the causes célèbres that will pass from posterity to posterity and even amongst the most remote people the French name will continue to be cited. The Revolution only really started at the moment when war was declared to defend the rights of man, its most beautiful heritage.

Rich and poor, all contribute to liberty, equality. Tremble tyrants, who rule over those like yourselves, and accept the evidence that your initial gambits are fruitless. Strong public authority surrounds a Constitution founded on the immutable basis of reason and justice.

And you, the French, who have not abandoned your Motherland, who have not coalesced with the foreigners to attack it on all sides and who have armed yourselves only to defend it, keep up this bellicose courage: Heaven, nature, reason and justice all serve such a beautiful cause and second your endeavour. Victory awaits; Luckner, Rochambeau, la Fayette, this Triumvirate of a renewed people will accept the laurels that Mars has reserved for them. [14]


Luckner commanded the French army of the Rhine, then the army of the North. Born in Bavaria in 1722 he became an officer in the French king’s regiment in 1763. More French than his accent, he was taken out of retirement and guillotined in 1794. Rochambeau, a hero of the American War of Independence, commanded the French army of the North; he was arrested in 1793 but freed after the fall of Robespierre and became a high-ranking officer under Napoleon. La Fayette’s career is too complex and too well known to warrant a footnote.

Slavery, the unnatural son of liberty who often takes advantage of his mother’s tenderness, and sometimes of her frailties, has successively put liberty back in irons; but this time she has understood the danger of a long tyranny. But, oh French, make no mistake, liberty is a mere chimera that fades away as soon as it is given up to a dominant party.

What is the point of this letter, my fellow Citizens? It is to save you from the subtle charms of despotism, which, docile within a popular uprising, modestly waits for calm to return before seducing minds and then showing itself to be all-powerful and cruel. This is the fate that threatens the French if they head towards violence thanks to an unbridled love of liberty. You must, therefore, be wary of all those vicious prejudices that have forever led people astray. Soon the Feuillants and the Jacobins will cease to exist; united within the mass of Citizens there may then be only one opinion within the Realm: if this happy omen could come to pass, all the Hannibals, the Alexanders, the Coriolanuses beyond the Rhine, the CONDÉ, born to carry arms against their Motherland, would be mere pygmies in front of the French army. [15] But if the French army is betrayed, oh French! This is the warning I feared to deliver; fight, be ceaselessly vigilant and if you must die by that most odious of crimes, make the traitors pay a high price for your last moments and let this glorious end terrify the tyrants who would put you back in irons, let them only reap ashes and have only corpses to enslave.


Condé was a royal prince with a military career. He emigrated after the fall of the Bastille and organised a counter-revolutionary army at Worms while the king’s brothers based their efforts in Coblenz. His army was successively controlled by Austria, Prussia, England and Russia. He returned to France at the Restoration.

I declare and make a most solemn oath that if the counter-revolution happens, that if Louis XVI takes back his throne as a despot, I will no longer be able to contain myself and that after having written for so long in his favour as a King who ruled over a free French people, I will run to his palace, await his passing, not to assassinate him but to strike him with all the curses that posterity heaps on tyrants; like the Roman who threw himself into the abyss that opened up in the heart of Rome, to serve as an example to the people, I will go to the scaffold for my country. Let the tyrants tremble at my resolve and you, French, may you arise out of your lassitude if we have to fear such a deplorable fate! But, no, a more hopeful consolation presents itself to my eyes: I see the two formidable armies advance towards each other; I see the first move in this terrible action, then the cry of nature is heard in all hearts; the French in the two armies throw down their weapons and fly to embrace each other; the bemused foreigners retire full of compassion and admiration. This crisis is worthy of the heart and spirit of the French. I feel this sensation already in my soul; I do not share the weakness of my sex. Why would all the French not feel the same joy that I do? It is so delightful to believe in the heroic virtues of a divided people who yearn to be reunited! Perhaps destiny is reserving this great battlefield victory for the French. French, let us not bask in such a flattering illusion but remain ever vigilant against the seduction of all parties, and keep as a motto only Motherland, Liberty and Equality; all three are your heritage, your inheritance and your household Gods; your most precious moments, your nights, your days are devoted to them, perseverance, resolve, constancy and the law are all we need for the name of the French People to remain undimmed.


Note. This brochure will be found attached to two volumes that contain The Enslavement of the Blacks, played at the Comédie Française, in three acts; The Enforced Vows, played at the French, Comedy and Lyric Theatre, in three acts; The Rights of Woman; Addresses to the King, the Queen, the Prince of Condé, M. L. Duverrier, on his Embassy; The French Spirit, or The Apology to the True Nobles; several fragments from The Letter to the People; in 1788 [sic], and the Patriotic Observations with the engraving of the patriotic tax; the Summary of the Author’s Life, and the Dedication to Providence. [16]

These two volumes can be found at Le Jay, rue des Petits Champs; Bailli, Barrière des Sergents; Mme Lesclapart ; [sic] rue de Roule, and widow Duchesne, rue St-Jacques.


This list conflates two distinct pamphlets and should probably read as L’Esprit français; Le Bon sens français ou l’Apologie etc. instead of Esprit français ou l’Apologie etc.
[top]