Enraged Ones

Jaques Roux
Théophile Leclerc

Jean Varlet
Claire Lacombe
Founded 1792 (1792)
Dissolved 1794 (1794)
Split from Jacobin Club
Ideology Republicanism
Direct democracy
Political position Far-left
Colours      Red

The Enraged Ones (French: Les Enragés) were a small number of firebrands known for defending the lower class and expressing the demands of the radical sans-culottes during the French Revolution.[1] They played an active role in the May 31-June 2, 1793 Paris uprisings that forced the expulsion of the Girondins from the National Convention, allowing the Montagnards to assume full control.[2]

The Enragés became associated with this term for their angry rhetoric appealing to the Convention to take more measures that would benefit the poor. Jacques Roux, Jean Varlet, Théophile Leclerc, and Claire Lacombe, the primary leaders of the Enragés, were strident critics of the Convention for failing to carry out the promises of the Revolution.[3]

The Enragés were not a unified party. Rather, the individual figureheads that comprised the group identified as the Enragés worked for their own objectives, and evidence of cooperation is inconclusive.[4] As individual political personalities, the Enragés were cynical to the point of anarchism, suspicious of most political organizations and individuals, and they resisted ties to others.[5] The leaders did not see themselves as part of a shared movement, and Roux even called for Varlet’s arrest.[6] The notion of the Enragés as a cohesive group was perpetuated by the Jacobins as they lumped their critics Leclerc and Roux into one group.[7]

Primary demands

In 1793, Jacques Roux delivered a speech at the National Convention known as the “Manifesto of the Enragés” that represents the essential demands of the group. He asserted that freedom and equality were thus far “vain phantoms” because the rich had profited from the Revolution at the expense of the poor. To remedy this, he proposed measures for price controls, arguing “Those goods necessary to all should be delivered at a price accessible to all.” He also called for strict punishments against actors engaged in speculation and monopoly. He demanded the Convention take severe action to repress counterrevolutionary activity, promising to “show them [enemies] those immortal pikes that overthrew the Bastille.” Lastly, he accused the Convention of ruining the finances of the state and encouraged the exclusive use of the assignats to stabilize finances.[8]

Key leaders

Jacques Roux

Jacques Roux, a Roman Catholic priest was the leader of the Enragés. Roux supported the common people and the Republic. He participated in peasant movements and endorsed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, to which he swore an oath on January 16, 1791. Roux claimed “I am ready to give every last drop of my blood to a Revolution that has already altered the fate of the human race by making men equal among themselves as they are all for all eternity before God.”[9] Roux saw violence as a key to the Revolution’s success. In fact, when Louis XVI was executed, it was Roux who led him to the scaffold.[10]

Jean Varlet

Jean Varlet, another leader of the Enragés, played a leading role in the fall of the monarchy. When Louis XVI attempted to flee Paris, Jean Varlet circulated petitions in the National Assembly and spoke against the king. On August 10, 1792, the Legislative Assembly suspended the king and called for the election of a National Convention. Afterwards, Varlet became a deputy in the new Convention. Even as a member of this representative government, Varlet mistrusted representation and was in favor of direct universal suffrage, which could bind representatives and recall elected legislators. He sought to prevent the wealthy from expanding their profits at the expense of the poor and called for the nationalization of all profits obtained through monopoly and hoarding.[11]

Théophile Leclerc

In 1790, Théophile Leclerc, joined the first battalion of Morbihan volunteers and remained a member until February 1792. He gained recognition in Paris through a speech attacking Louis XVI to the Jacobins. After moving to Lyons, he joined the Central Club and married Pauline Léon, a revolutionary woman. He approved of radical violence like the other Enragés, calling for the execution of expelled Girondins after the June 2 insurrection.[12]

Claire Lacombe

In 1793, the actress Claire Lacombe, another individual associated with the Enragés, founded the Society of Revolutionary Republicans. This group was outraged by high costs of living, the lack of necessities, and awful living conditions. Lacombe was known for violent rhetoric and action. On May 26, 1793, Lacombe nearly beat to death a Girondin woman, Théroigne de Méricourt, with a whip on the benches of the Convention. She may have killed her if Marat had not intervened.[13]

Other groups

To the left of the Montagnards, the Enragés were fought against by Maximilien de Robespierre and reemerged as the group of Hébertistes. Their ideas were taken up and developed by Babeuf and his associates.

Another group styling itself les enragés emerged in France in 1968 among students at Nanterre University. They were heavily influenced by the Situationists and would go on to be one of the leading groups in the May 1968 French insurrection.[14]


  1. Jeremy D. Popkin, A Short History of the French Revolution, (Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2015), 68.
  2. Paul R. Hanson, The A to Z of the French Revolution, (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2007), 120.
  3. Popkin, A Short History, 68.
  4. R.B Rose, Enragés: Socialists of the French Revolution?, (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1965), 73.
  5. Rose, Enragés, 41.
  6. Rose, Enragés, 74.
  7. Rose, Enragés, 75.
  8. Jacques Roux. "Manifesto of the Enragés," Trans. Mitchell Abidor, June 25, 1793, Marxist Internet Archive, https://www.marxists.org/history/france/revolution/roux/1793/enrages01.htm
  9. Denis Richet, "Enrages," in Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, ed. François Furet and Mona Ozouf (Harvard University Press, 1989), 338.
  10. Denis Richet, "Enrages," in Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, ed. François Furet and Mona Ozouf (Harvard University Press, 1989), 338.
  11. Richet, "Enrages," 337-338.
  12. Richet, "Enrages," 339.
  13. Richet, "Enrages," 339.
  14. René Viénet, Enragés and Situationists in the Occupation Movement, France, May '68, (New York: Automedia, 1992).

Further reading

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